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Avoiding the inevitable

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Darkening grey clouds possessed the skies above the densely crowded, fast-paced, and ever-evolving, bustling city of New York. The icy sharpness of the vigorous gusts of wind blowing through the streets of the Big Apple made the hustling habitants of the city bury their hands deep into their pockets or clutch at the collars of their coats, trying desperately but in vain to shield themselves from the biting cold. Those who stood waiting at bus-stops, subway- or metro stations, or impatiently calling out to hail a cab, cursed under their breaths as they all blamed the weather forecast for its inaccuracy and unreliable predictions. It was supposed to be a sun-filled day, a cold one nevertheless, but still a sunny one at that. People had been looking forward to probably one of the last brightly lit days of the year. With summer seemingly long past and gloomy and rainy fall turning into a harsh and bitter winter, days where the sun graced the New Yorkers with its warming rays, were few and far between. The already bad weather threatens mockingly with eerily static and dark energy, waiting with sinister patience for the worst of it to let burst from the skies. The weatherly turn of the tides collectively turned the people into a bad-tempered and sulking mood. It was as if the atmosphere itself was conveying that today would not be a good day, to whom it might’ve concerned, that would be a matter of the universe playing its course.    

In one small, shabby apartment in Lower Manhattan, well, more likely to be called a studio rather than an apartment, the gloomy weather went by particularly unnoticed by its occupant. It wasn’t in Andrea Sachs’ nature to dwell on such trivial things as bad weather. Especially when another day filled with strenuous tasks were imminent to be bestowed upon her the moment her mercurial and ever-demanding boss would step through the metal elevator doors, in all her grandiose, haute-couture glory onto the seventeenth floor of the Elias-Clarke building.    

The brunette finished applying the last touches of her make-up in front of the bathroom mirror and stared intently back at her reflection. Conjuring up every bit of self-confidence and determination she could muster to prepare herself for yet another day, working as the second assistant to the most exacting editor-in-chief in the history of the publishing industry. Andy was set out to prove to her boss that she would and could handle and achieve everything that was demanded of her, no matter how nonsensical or impossible some of the tasks she’d be given were. It did not matter to her, all that mattered was that she would conquer from the most frivolous errands to the most essentially crucial assignments her boss expected of her to complete.   

It thrilled Andy to no end to be able to face down the silver-haired fashion matriarch at the end of the day with a sense of triumphant accomplishment. Even if she’d never received any form of gratitude or any sign of respect for her efforts. No, the only thing she could do was to reluctantly accept that all she would ever receive was being deridingly stared down by the arctic blue gaze of Miranda Priestly, otherwise known as the Devil in Prada.  

Oh, how wickedly accurate that description fitted the fashion maven, Andy mused.  

Ever since the unfortunate trip to Paris Fashion Week nearly two months before, Miranda had been worse than ever imagined possible. Even before Paris, Miranda was an absolute disastrous hell to work for, but now she held a vindictive grudge against Andy. It was no longer simply working in hell but in an ice-cold, skin biting, soul-sucking and crushing hell of La Priestly’s own making, exclusively created just for the assistant.  

Every day working as Miranda Priestly’s assistant, Andy arrived home late in the evening, after delivering the Book, the mock-up of Runway’s magazine to the Devil’s lair, left her exhausted by her back-breaking efforts that went unnoticed, humiliated by the wittingly scathing tongue of her boss, frustrated by the fact that none of her endeavors seemed to be gaining her any small amount of respect or recognition in those arctic blue eyes.   

For the first couple of weeks, Andy had understood her boss’ diabolical demeanor towards her after they had returned from Paris. After all, she had abandoned the editor high and dry on the front steps of the Petit Palais, swarmed by paparazzi on one of the most important and busiest days of the year for the fashion icon, in a fit of self-preservation and feeling sympathetically betrayed for her good friend, Nigel Kipling. It had only taken the crossing of a street and impulsively throwing her business phone into the fountain on the Place de la Concorde for the young woman to realize that her reaction had been rather childish and that she consequently had been making an irrational and foolish mistake.   

Andy had spent that afternoon thinking of all the ways she could apologize to Miranda but figured out by nightfall that all she could really do was simply to face the Devil and prepare herself to do the most ignominious groveling she’d ever had to do in her entire life. In the hope to be forgiven as not to have to carry the guilt of leaving around, and in a selfish attempt to save her future career.  

Knocking on the door of the hotel’s presidential suite, she did exactly that, fully expecting that her attempt at forgiveness would inevitably be in vain. That she would no doubt be verbally eviscerated to a pile of melting shattered pieces of ice, to have been banned from any hopes in finding a career in the publishing industry on the east coast, hell, even on the entire continent.   

So, it came as an utterly unpredictable shock that left her in a state of utmost bewilderment, after her initial groveling had been done, that Miranda simply began ranting of instructions for her to do for the following day of Paris Fashion Week. Feeling dumbfounded, perplexed, and confused as to why her boss was so easily giving her another chance, she strolled back to her own hotel room and hadn’t questioned it any further. After all, you never dare question Miranda Priestly on anything. Not if you’re eager to be buried six feet under in the backyard of Miranda’s townhouse, that is.   

After that day, life went on for the assistant to the most influential person in the fashion industry. With the only exception that now, the fashion icon seemed to be keenly intent on proving that Andy will undoubtedly fail and disappoint as she had done once before. To drive the point home that she was not up for the challenge, that she wasn’t strong-willed, ambitious, and determined enough to finish up her tenure as Miranda Priestly’s assistant, so that afterward she could basically have any job she wanted. It was rather common knowledge that after working for a year or two for Miranda, you haven’t only got one, but two feet into the door of whichever job you wished to pursue after completing your tenure. It was a job a million girls would kill for after all.   

Andy Sachs wasn’t anything if not ambitious. The brunette dreamed big and had set herself out to achieve the impossible, set on making a name for herself, to be the best she could ever possibly be, and to make a difference in the world by using her published words as her weapon in life.  

Just as Miranda had set out to prove that she would inevitably fail on her road to success, Andy had set out to prove that she was determinately intending to climb the ladder of success exactly like Miranda had done and accomplished, but with the exception of selling her soul to the Devil, or becoming one like Miranda has done. Andy vowed to herself that she won’t reduce herself by the means of stabbing friends in the back. She understood that unavoidably difficult decisions and sacrifices would have to be made but she was set out to show the Devil herself that you did not have to be a condescending bitch to those around you to do so. 

Chapter Text

After hanging up her coat in the closet of the anteroom at Runway, Andy hurried back towards the elevator, reaching it just in the nick of time with her usual mega-watt, face-splitting smile as the metal doors open and Miranda, the editor-in-chief of Runway magazine, walked through them with her stately stiletto powerwalk. She carelessly pushed the Book into Andy’s arms and began ranting off the days’ instructions as Andy meticulously writes them down on her notepad, always following two steps behind the older woman.   

When they reached the anteroom, Andy picked the center-of-the-sun hot Starbucks coffee cup up from her desk just in time, avoiding a disaster of it tumbling down onto the marble floor and inevitably staining hundreds of dollars worth of Miranda’s coat and bag as Miranda flung them carelessly onto the desk. Andy hurried along into the inner office, placing the coffee on the glass desk, and continued writing down the rest of her errands. Before Miranda could dismiss her in her usual disinterested and conceited way, Andy spoke up trying not to look as smug and sound as haughty as she was feeling.  

“The Calvin Klein samples have already been delivered to Nigel whose sifting through them as we speak and will bring those you might deem acceptable once he’s done with them. The models for the Bethesda shoot have arrived at the airport right on schedule and I should be receiving an update any minute now that they’ve arrived at their destination.”   

At exactly that moment, Andy’s cellphone pinged, scanning the contents of the text with laser-like speed. “I can confirm that the models have arrived at the location and are being prepped as we speak to begin the shoot. Donatella has confirmed tomorrow's lunch meeting. The budget reports you’ve asked for shall be here within the hour. I’ve already sent flowers to Donna Karen to congratulate her on the birth of her grandchild, and I’ll bring the run-through forward by an hour since you canceled lunch with Irv, which means you can leave the office in time to be home for dinner, and Patrick’s already holding on line one.”  

Andy looked up to meet Miranda’s eyes then, trying but failing to keep the challenge out of her tone. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Miranda?”    

Seated behind her desk, Miranda took off her reading glasses and ran the end of one of its arms across her bottom lip as she perused Andy from top to bottom, and then up again.  

Staring back into the hazel eyes of her assistant, Miranda spoke softly, sarcasm dripping from her tone. “You’ve become quite the conceited, cheeky, little lapdog, haven’t you, Andréa?”   

Andy frowned in indignation. “I-”   

“No, no.” Miranda  interrupted  as she wagged her finger. “That wasn’t a question. Merely stating the obvious.”   

Andy bit down on the tip of her tongue. She knew better than to respond, knowing it was foolish and unwise to challenge Miranda. And yet, she wanted to show that she was no longer that easily cowered or affected by the cruel remarks. So, she steadfastly kept her gaze locked with Miranda’s disdainful narrowing eyes.   

As Andy continued to stare in the icy-sharp, scrutinizing gaze of her boss for the longest time to date, she unconsciously started to sink into the cold blue depth. The hypnotizing pattern of the heavy downpour against floor-to-ceiling windows slightly drowned out the sound of her blood rushing in her ears. Her skin started to tingle as if an electrical current seemed to vibrate in the space between the two women. When the hair on her arms and the back of her neck started to rise, the loud sound of booming thunder permeated her senses, jolting Andy out of her stupor. Blinking several times, she focused back on Miranda to see a look on her face that had never been there before, but in less than a second, the indecipherable look was schooled back into one of indifference as if it were never there, to begin with.   

“That’s all,” Miranda said, putting her glasses back on and looking down at the papers spread out on her desk.  

Feeling puzzled, Andy went to sit behind her desk. Over time and meticulous effort, she’d become well-versed in the instruction manual that is Miranda Priestly. She could efficiently read every mood and thought by a mere slight movement in Miranda’s facial features or by a subtle change in the tone of her always controlled soft voice. It left her quite unnerved to have been glared at with such a fierce, cold, and penetrating gaze, but for the first time in a long time, not exactly understanding what it meant other than the basic scrutinization.   

However perplexed Andy felt right now about the strange ordeal, she felt rather proud she hadn’t cowered and backed down. It would not have done to challenge a predator right in the eye to only turn your vulnerable back on it and consequently becoming its prey. She no longer was the naïve, fresh out of college, ignorant school girl when she first started her tenure at Runway nearly a year ago. She had matured and grown confident in herself and in her abilities to perform. Ironically, Andy realized that it was mostly thanks to Miranda that she had grown so much as an independent and capable person.  

Completely ironic, indeed,  Andy mused before focusing back on her work.   

***   

Her strange but relatively good start of a morning rapidly deteriorated to one of the worse days she’s had so far. It seemed like the gloomy weather had the whole staff of Runway failing to meet Miranda’s wishes, or had problems and complications occurring around every corner, which they all handed off to Andy to remedy or rectify. Naturally, Miranda was left in an infernal mood because of all that went wrong, and of course, Andy was the main target to take the brunt of her malicious mood.   

And oh boy, Miranda certainly was in a nefariously good from today, much to Andy’s chagrin. Never once missing a perfectly timed beat, La Priestly was ready to strike with her softest but deadliest tone of voice. Very much like a snake inconspicuously hiding in the bushes ready to venomously strike at oblivious passing prey.   

By late afternoon, Andy was on the verge of tearing her hair out in frustration or coming dangerously close to throttling Miranda with her own hands in front of the entire staff of Runway. Not caring that she would be taken away by the men in white coats. If Miranda kept this up at the rate that she was currently doing, the asylum was exactly where Andy was bound to end up.  

It didn’t matter that Andy was able to solve every hindrance thrown her way, nothing that she did seemed to fall within the good graces of Miranda. Rectifying wrongs and continuing to accomplish every single task to the point of perfection, never with delay, sometimes even ahead of time, and yet nothing seemed to satisfy her mercurial boss. Slowly but surely, she felt the restraints on her temper cracking and wasn’t sure how much more she could take without giving in to the temptation of lashing out.   

Having closed her eyes and taking deep, calming breaths to reign in her temper after the latest scathing remark from her boss just a couple minutes before, the haughty, conceited voice of the Brit, Emily Charlton, Miranda’s first assistant reached her ears from the other side of the anteroom.   

“You finally about to have your mental breakdown now, Ahn-dray-yah? Should I go ahead and call the loony bin to see if they have an opening for you? Or have you perhaps consumed too many carbs during lunch that you’re regretting the extra pounds you no doubt must be feeling settling on those hips by now?”   

Andy’s eyes blazed open, instantly locking with green ones behind the other desk. If looks could kill, the redhead would’ve been buried six feet under by the murderous intensity in Andy’s gaze.    

Andy banged her fist onto her desk, rattling its contents as she snapped back through clenched teeth. “For fuck’s sake, Emily! Why don’t you for once in your miserable, condescending life just shut the fuck up? Or I’ll shove that stick that seems to be permanently stuck in your scrawny ass so far up into your esophagus that you won’t be able to swallow your daily portion of stinking cheese cubes down your throat. So, I’d better watch it if I were you!”   

Emily seemed horrifyingly taken aback, not having expected for Andy to retort back the way she did, if her mouth opening and closing is anything to go by. But on closer inspection, Emily’s gaze wasn’t directed at her but at something behind her. Andy didn’t have to think twice about who could be standing behind her at the entrance of the anteroom if the frightened look of the redhead was any indication. Andy closed her eyes once again, took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, and turned her desk chair to face the wrath of La Priestly.   

Miranda was staring her down, eyes narrow and lips pursed. Andy knew this look. It had ended many careers and sent grown men crying, nearly wetting themselves back into their mothers’ arms. Andy didn’t know what to say, thinking she should apologize for her outburst, but truthfully didn’t want to. Why should everyone else get the privilege to tear someone down within the walls of Runway and not her? Luckily, she didn’t have to say anything at all.   

“Coffee.”   

That was all Miranda said as she continued on her path towards her office. Andy let out a sigh of relief and hurried towards the elevator, grateful for the much-needed little reprieve the coffee run would provide her. Once she exited the Elias-Cark lobby, she briefly entertained the thought of Miranda purposely doing her a favor to have a couple of minutes to herself to cool down and gather her wits, so she’ll be able to continue working without biting someone else’s head off for the remainder of the day. She snorted at herself for thinking such an inconceivable and ridiculous thought as she was entering the Starbucks across the street.  

Chapter Text

The Book arrived earlier than expected later that evening, which Andy was more than grateful for since the day had been particularly vexing. She couldn’t wait to go home, crash down on her old and tattered couch with a glass of red while watching reruns on TV, that is if she didn’t fall asleep first.  

Letting herself into the townhouse, she set the Book on the table with the flowers and hung the dry-cleaning in the closed next to it. As she turned around and headed back for the front door, she heard a sound that made her stop in her tracks. She turned back around and looked up at the winding staircase.   

“Pssst,” floated down once again from the second-floor landing. Andy spotted one of the twins sitting behind the railings, knees up to her chest and looking down at Andy hesitantly.   

“Cassidy?” Andy whispered back up.    

After the Harry Potter incident, the twins seemed to have taken a liking to her, occasionally waiting for her to drop off the Book. Andy no longer had trouble separating the twins, but the child was sitting in the dark, two stories up so she wasn’t certain. Somehow, she felt as if on instinct that it was the youngest of the twin terrors.  

The hesitant look on the girl faded away and a soft, shy smile spread across her face. Cassidy got up and started to silently descend the stairs until she arrived on the bottom step and took a seat on it, looking down at her little hands clasped on her lap. Andy silently walked over and hunched down in front of her.   

“What’s up, kiddo? Everything alright?” Andy inquired softly. Cassidy frowned for a moment, looking so much like a younger version of her mother before shaking her head in the negative.   

“Hey, look at me, Cass.” Andy cooed softly.  

When the little girl met her gaze, Andy smiled her softest smile and tried to convey as much warmth as possible through her eyes. “I want you to know that you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but if you do want to, I want you to know that I’ll gladly listen to whatever it is you need to get off your chest, okay? I promise that I won’t tell another soul if you don’t want me to.”    

Cassidy kept looking at her, observantly scanning Andy’s face, contemplating the words, and searching her eyes as if trying to find some sort of deceit in them. Then, she let out a seemingly much-needed heavy sigh and nodded her head, looking back down at her lap. Andy gave a small nod of her own and went to sit down next to the girl. Andy knew that she would be in so much trouble if Miranda were to appear and find her sitting on her stairs, conversing with one of her children past bedtime. But Andy couldn’t turn her back on the little girl, seeing she was in some sort of turmoil and for some inexplicable reason, reached out to her.   

“I, I just-... I had a bad day,” Cassidy began, her voice hoarse as if she had been crying before. Andy kept silent, not wanting to push and giving Cassidy the time she needed to get it out on her own. 

“Just some stupid stuff at school that’s been going on for a while but, but that’s, y’know, not really- …" Cassidy trailed off with an unsure look on her face.   

“That stupid stuff at school is not what’s got you so upset?” Andy asked to which Cassidy nodded.   

“It’s Mom. She just-... I don’t know.” She let out another heavy sigh. “I tried to talk to her today after dinner, but she just doesn’t care. I tried to get her attention, but she just kept working on her laptop. Humming that way she does when she pretends she’s listening, but really isn’t. I got so mad and stormed out of her study, but she didn’t follow me or anything. She didn’t even try to talk about it after she tucked me in and I just feel so-” Her voice cracked and she bit her lip, looking away as if not wanting Andy to see the tears welling up in her blue eyes.   

“Hey, c’mon, kiddo,” Andy whispered and put her arm around small shoulders, pulling Cassidy closer to her. “You don’t have to be embarrassed around me if you feel like crying. Honestly, I won’t judge you. Crying is completely normal. You must know better than anyone else how your mother gets when it involves her work. She works so very hard, most people don’t even realize how hard, or how much effort that’s required of her. Or how difficult her job really is. I know, since I’m her assistant. That’s why I know that she easily gets consumed by it. It's because of this super cool trait of hers, y’know. Almost like a superpower.”    

At that, Cassidy looked up at her questioningly but intrigued. “What super cool trait?”    

Andy’s trademark mega-watt smile appeared on her face. “She’s got this laser-focus, like x-ray vision. It makes her so great at what she does. When she focuses on something it’s all-encompassing, she sees everything and even more than most people. Every single minuscule detail, her mind running miles an hour that even the fastest runner on the planet can’t hope to catch up to.”  

Chuckling, Andy couldn’t help but think how strange it was to describe Miranda as a superhero. “I know you don’t see it yet, but she’s really the best at what she does. No one can do what she does and she knows it. Makes her a little cocky if you ask me.”  

Andy winked mischievously, causing Cassidy to giggle. “Don’t tell your mother I said that. Anyway, your mother loves her job, that’s why she’s the best, and to stay the best she has to work extra hard. But Cass, listen here.” 

Moving her arm from around Cassidy’s shoulder, she laid a comforting hand on top of her head and ruffled the red hair a little. “Just because your mother loves her job, does absolutely not mean that she loves you or your sister any less. You’ll always, always be the most important thing to her, even when it doesn’t seem like it at times. You mustn’t doubt that kid, ever. She just gets carried away in her work, that’s all.”   

They fell in companionable silence as Cassidy seemed to contemplate Andy’s monologue, then nodded as she said. “Yeah, I know. I just wish she would point that laser-focus on just me sometimes.”   

Andy tenderly smiled. “Well, why don’t you just tell her that then? I’m sure that if you ask her and I mean really ask her, not just waiting around for her to give you her attention, she’d be all ears to what you have to say.”   

Cassidy shrugged her shoulders as she sighed. “I guess, she’s just so distant sometimes. I don’t really know how to reach her.”   

Andy looked up at the winding staircase for a moment, contemplating as to how she should approach this, then opted for just being honest with the kid. “Yeah, I know what you mean by that, kiddo. Once again, don’t tell her I said this, but she’s pretty stubborn. It’s hard to get through to her, especially in the workplace. She’s distanced herself so much from everyone that you don’t really know how to approach her or even if you should. Mostly, everyone is simply too scared of her. So, no one really tries. I just think it’s been so long since anyone has tried to really interact with her that she’s forgotten how to connect with people. She’s just the big scary boss and everyone else are her minions. That’s how it’s been for so long that that’s just simply the world she lives in.”   

Cassidy thoughtfully looked at her for a long moment. “But not you though.”   

“What, not me?” Andy asked as she raised an eyebrow. 

Cassidy explained matter-of-factly with a serious look on her face. “You’re not scared of her, right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me.”  

Feeling a little surprised by Cassidy’s tone and presumption, Andy nodded. “Mhm, I guess I’m not really scared of her, no. But she really intimidates me that it’s sort of terrifying. She’s just this bigger-than-life person, y’know?”   

Cassidy inclined her head to the side in a very Miranda-like manner. “Why don’t you interact with her then? If no one else does.”   

“I do interact with her, every day.” Andy chuckled warily. 

Shaking her head, Cassidy frowned, once again, looking very much like a miniature version of Miranda. “No, I mean like what you’ve said. Connect with her, since everyone else is too afraid.”   

Andy rubbed at the back of her neck as she said. “Oh, well. Even if I were to try, I’m sure it won’t be appreciated coming from me.”   

“Why not?” Cassidy pushed. 

Andy sighed, thinking the girl was too inquisitive for her own good. “Simply put, and excuse my language, but she hates my guts. I think she’d rather wear sneakers and a hoodie to work than have an actual conversation with me.”   

Cassidy seemed to deflate a little. “That’ll never happen, she doesn’t even wear sneakers at home.”   

“Exactly.” Andy chuckled, she couldn’t even picture Miranda in sneakers in her mind’s eye. 

“That’s too bad though,” Cassidy mumbled. 

“Why’s that, kiddo?”   

Cassidy looked up, her eyes piercing Andy’s, causing an eerie sensation to wash over her. “Because I like you. You talk ‘real’ to me. Not interact like I’m some stupid little kid. So, now we’re connecting. If only Mom could see it like that or understand how easy it could be.”   

Andy nodded, thinking the girl was something else entirely. “Exactly, Cassidy. So, now you try connecting with your mother as we’ve just done. You just said it yourself how easy it could be. I’m sure she’ll learn a thing or two from you by the way you’ve opened yourself up to me tonight. And by the way, I like you too, kid.”   

Cassidy perked up a bit. “You really think so? That she could learn something from me?”   

Ruffling red hair again, Andy grinned. “Oh, I know so. Because you’ve been really brave tonight, Cass. It’s not always easy to talk about your feelings, but it’s important that you do, and you’ve done that really well tonight. I just hope that I was of any sort of help to you?”   

“Yeah, you have been, Andy.” Cassidy leaned over and gave her a hug which the brunette responded to in kind, chuckling lightly.   

“Alright then, kiddo. I’m glad. Now it’s time for you to skedaddle back to your room and go to sleep. It’s already pretty late, and if your mother finds out I’ve been holding you up, I’m sure she’ll really start breathing fire and burn me to a crisp.” Andy said, standing with a grin as she pulled the girl up with her on her feet and gently pushed her up the stairs.  

Cassidy complied giggling, then turned around and whispered a shy, “Thank you, Andy.” Before continuing her ascend up the stairs.   

Andy waited at the bottom of the stairs until she heard the faint click of a door closing before turning around and heading for the front door once more. With her hand on the doorknob, she stopped before opening the door and reluctantly glanced back over her shoulder down the hallway, feeling the strange sensation of someone watching her. When she saw nothing but darkness, she sent a quick ‘thank you’ prayer out to any deity that might exist and turned back around. Shaking her head, she told herself that she’s imagining things and promptly left the townhouse, finally starting her journey back home.  

***  

The next day at work, Andy unsurprisingly discovered Miranda in yet another particularly vicious and rancorous mood. They were in the middle of a run-through with Andy writing down notes, wincing every now and then as the rest of the quivering staff was being verbally eviscerated by Miranda’s sharp tongue.  

“Enlighten me,” Miranda spoke softly, voice dripping with acrimonious displeasure. “In what, utterly ridiculous world do all of you imbeciles think that what you have presented to me, I would deem acceptable?”  

Miranda let out a tormented sigh, pinching the bridge of her nose between her fingers as if trying to ward off an oncoming headache. “Do you honestly think that I have the time for this nonsense? That you would even dare bring this complete disaster into my office and to my attention is even beyond my comprehension. All these choices have done so far are burn my retinas and have given me a headache that not even a whole bottle of Tylenol could remedy for me.” 

She turned her frighteningly freezing stare to pierce every single member of her minions. “If your incompetence and abysmal calamity is not gone from my office within the next five seconds, then do not even bother ever coming back. That’s all.”   

Everyone hurried out of the office in lighting speed, clumsily dragging the clothing racks in tow. Andy went to her desk, opened up a drawer, and pulled out a bottle of Tylenol. Garnering up the courage in an attempt to fortify herself, and without foolishly thinking better of it, she strode back into the inner office to face her mercurial boss again.  

Andy didn’t dare to look at Miranda just yet, but nevertheless felt the need to try and be of any help. She placed a chilled glass of Pellegrino on a coaster on the glass desk and placed two pills next to it. Hoping it would help with Miranda’s headache that had her no doubt be even more acrimonious than usual. Taking two steps back and inwardly praying that she would live to see another day, she ignored the  ‘never ask Miranda a question rule’  and recklessly suggested.  

“Would you like me to cancel your meeting with Mr. Ravitz due in fifteen minutes? I’m pretty sure that if I call Gaultier’s people now, they should be more than ready for you within the hour, meaning you can leave the office in fifteen, therefore avoiding your meeting with Irv.”   

Miranda’s head snapped up, murderously narrowing arctic eyes locking with wide anxious hazel ones. “Well, go ahead why don’t you, Andréa? It seems like you already know everything about me, do you not? Since you seem to be so very well-versed with the workings of my mind, why even ask me what I would like and not just do it already.” Her voice dripped with poisonous sarcasm, seemingly angrier than a moment before, if such a thing was even possible.  

Andy blinked, not really knowing what she should do now, or how to respond, or even if she should. Deciding it was best to apologize, even though knowing it only bored or irritated Miranda even more, she tried anyway. “Uhm, I’m sorry, Miranda. I shouldn’t have assumed -”  

“But it seems like you just cannot help yourself. Or am I wrong, Andréa?” Miranda queried menacingly.  

Andy looked down for a moment as she rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, no, but... It is my job to assume, is it not? To think ahead and figure out what you might want or need. To help in any way I can to make your life-, I mean, your job just a little easier.”  

Miranda noticeably clenched her jaw and her nostrils flared, paired together with the narrowed eyes and pursed lips, Andy knew that she had just dug her own grave.  

“Indeed, Andréa,” Miranda said in such a low voice, it was barely audible. Andy had to practically lean in to hear what she was saying. Which was yet another sign of her malice. “It is your job to make my job easier. Not my life. My life is my own, which you are irrevocably no part of. You are simply an unworthy assistant, here to do my bidding and fetch when I need fetching like the good little lapdog that you are. I do not want nor need your aggravating meddling into my personal affairs in what you might assume to think is for my benefit. Is your brain really that deficient that you are not able to comprehend that I simply require you to do your job?”  

Andy grimaced, remembering the night in Paris where she’d accidentally stumbled upon a never-before-seen Miranda Priestly, shed of all her glorious Dragon Lady armor. Merely clothed in a grey bathrobe, curled up in the corner of a couch, face void of all make-up, mussed-up hair, shoulders slumped in defeat, red-rimmed lost eyes, and hollow-voiced. Discovering her resolutely unwavering boss like that, had broken something deep inside of Andy. It had been an unbearable, heart-breaking sight to watch, and all she wanted to do at that moment was to console Miranda. Andy had tried to reach out to the woman that hid underneath the Devil’s façade. But of course, her sympathetic compassion, asking if there was anything she could do for Miranda, had been ill-received. Which had led to her being promptly dismissed with the biting remark to do: ‘Your job.’   

Focusing back on the present moment, Andy tried to figure out why her boss was in such an overly cantankerous mood. Suddenly, a light bulb went off in Andy’s mind and she realized why Miranda was so infuriated by her, maybe even explaining why she’d been in such a diabolical mood all day, to begin with.   

The voice inside her head screamed and begged at her to stay silent as to not anger Miranda any more than she had already done. But the thunderous beating in her chest overpowered the sensible thoughts and convinced her heart to speak up for her unadulterated soul.  

“Oh, I see. This is about last night, isn’t it? About Cassidy?” Andy asked rhetorically as she intensely stared back at Miranda. “Well, if it is about that, then I won’t apologize for my so-called aggravating meddling into your personal affairs, Miranda.” Andy quipped.  

“Excuse me? How dare y-” Miranda sneered, her tone incredulous but Andy cut her off.   

“I understand that you don’t want me to intrude in your personal life, Miranda. I know how much you value your privacy for obvious reasons.”  

Andy took a deep breath and forced herself to continue looking into Miranda’s incensed eyes. “However, if it makes you feel any better, then I do feel sorry for the fact that me overstepping some of your boundaries has made you feel uncomfortable. But I do not apologize for what I have done. I would never brush off Cassidy or Caroline or any child for that matter, in a moment where they needed some form of comfort that I could provide. I’m not sorry for taking the time to sit down with her and listen to whatever she needed to get off her chest. That had nothing to do with any aspect of my job. Even if coincidentally the subject we’ve discussed was about you. It still really wasn’t about you, Miranda. That was simply me, trying to comfort a little girl that needed someone to listen to.”  

Miranda’s soft voice rose slightly as she stood up from her desk chair, placed her fingertips on top of her desk, and leaned forward. Looking very similar to a predator about to strike and ravage. “So, you’re saying that I’m incapable of comforting and listening to my own daughter?” 

“What? No! That’s not what I meant at all, Miranda.” Andy said, becoming rather panic-stricken. “Look, I’m not judging you, in any way. If that’s what you’re concerned about- “ 

Andy faltered when Miranda scoffed. “Concerned? How dare you assume-”  

“I could never judge you!” Andy interrupted in her frenzy. “I know how hard you need to work because of the demands that come with the job. I know that it’s hard to balance life and work, I know that better than anyone. It’s not easy. It’s damn near impossible, yet you still manage and that should be envied, not judged.”  

Andy shook her head as she gathered up her resolve again. “So, no. I don’t think you're incapable of doing anything, Miranda. I’m just saying that I was happy to help. If it is helping you, Cass, or Care, or even the homeless guy around the corner of my apartment. If I am able, I will do it. That’s all there is to it. So, fire me if you must but I won’t apologize.”  

Andy took a deep, steadying breath, inwardly cursing at herself for rambling on like an idiot and fearing she might’ve just gotten herself fired and committed career-suicide for speaking against and interrupting Miranda. Then she figured that if this were to be the end, she might as well go down believing in her choices and stood up straight, stuck her chin out, and gazed back into Miranda’s eyes.   

Several long moments passed with the two women locked in a tense, heated gaze when all of a sudden, the tightness in Miranda’s features softened nearly imperceptibly but remained indifferent. The change would have been barely noticeable to anyone else, but Andy was not just anyone. Miranda continued to look at Andy, standing so motionless she could have almost been mistaken for a beautiful Greek statue. Andy had no idea what the older woman might be thinking and the longer they stared at each other the more anxious Andy became. Cold sweat was trickling down her spine and she started to feel positively unnerved but tried her very best not to show it.  

Then, within the blink of an eye, Miranda straightened up, looked Andy up and down once more, and dismissively waved her hands.  

“That’s all,” Miranda said, her voice barely audible. Andy turned around in an instant, relief washing over her as she went to sit down behind her desk. She looked at her computer screen but not really seeing anything as she focused on her breathing, trying to settle her disbelief that she was somehow still alive.   

***  

Later that evening after getting home from delivering the Book, Andy laid in bed as she contemplated what had transpired between Miranda and herself. She had spoken against her boss, not about professional but personal matters. Her boss, who seemed to hate her with a burning passion and who wouldn’t think twice about firing someone for the most absurd little mistake if she felt like it. Andy had been adamant that her career had come to end after defending herself for why she’d decided to go against the rules and talk with one of her children. Or at the very least had expected another viciously verbal lashing from Miranda and yet neither had unfathomably happened. Andy didn’t know what to make of it? It left her confused to no end, groaning in frustration into her pillow.  

For the past several months before and especially after Paris, she had tried extraordinarily hard to not slip up or make a mistake as to not give Miranda a reason to fire her, consequently proving that Andy would inevitably fail in her pursuit of success. But now, when she did something even worse than a slip-up or mistake, Miranda had done absolutely nothing about it. Try as she might, Andy could not figure out her mystifying boss. Professionally, she knew it all, down to the slightest change in facial features, body language, and tone of voice. However, as a person, Miranda remained an enigma.   

But now that she thought about it, why was she trying to figure out her boss on a personal level? It was definitely not her place to think any further than the boundaries of work. Miranda had made that adamantly clear today. Yet, here she was wondering and pondering, trying to figure out who Miranda truly was behind the façade.  

Because Andy knew that it was exactly that. The woman Miranda portrayed at work was only a mere façade, a mask, and armor she put on to shield herself from the outside world. She knew that there was more to Miranda Priestly than the one she got to see at Runway. Miranda was a mother of two, twice-divorced, a woman with some serious baggage, someone who had ferociously fought her way up the ladder of success from absolutely nothing, and who now stood at the very top of the world. With all that and more, she still made it seem effortless to carry the world on her shoulders. To say that Andy couldn’t help but wonder was a serious understatement. 

Consumed by thoughts of Miranda, Andy started growing annoyingly frustrated that her sleep remained elusive because of it. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see the arctic piercing gaze of the woman in question. Too tired as to ponder why she couldn’t keep Miranda out of her mind’s eye, she decided to give her best friend a call the next morning.   

Thank God for Saturday morning sleep-ins! Andy mused. 

Chapter Text

Walking into their favorite Midtown deli, Andy spotted Doug sitting at their usual booth in the corner. She bent down to give him their customary kiss on the cheek before sitting down in her seat. The pair ordered their usual, a pastrami sandwich for Doug, and a chicken mozzarella with sun-dried tomatoes for Andy. While they ate, Doug was going on and on about some guy that had recently started at the accounting firm where he worked. If Andy was being honest, she didn’t hear a single word he said, neither had she taken more than a few bites of her sandwich, which in its own was a highly unusual mannerism for Andy. She simply toyed with a napkin next to her plate while her other hand supported her chin in its palm. Unaware that Doug had fallen silent for several minutes, he was watching Andy closely, waiting for his best friend to return to the land of the living. When that didn’t seem to happen anytime soon on its own accord, he opted to take the matter into his own hands.  

“So, what’s got you moping around like some sad little gremlin?” Doug asked around a mouth full of the last bite of his pastrami sandwich. When no answer seemed to be forthcoming, he tried a different tactic to get his friend out of her shell. Sighing rather dramatically, he raised his voice a little to make sure Andy would hear him.   

“I don’t even know why I bothered asking. I know this is about Miranda .”   

Andy’s head snapped up, looking at him as if he suddenly had grown another head.  

Finally, that did the trick. He thought to himself, chuckling lightly.  

“So, what did you do this time to piss off a certain iconic fashion matriarch?” The look on his friend’s face nearly made him double over in laughter, nearly. He knew it wouldn’t go over well with Andy.  

“How did y-” Andy spoke up, incredulity written all over her face but Doug didn’t need her to finish that sentence.   

This has gone on for far too long. He ruminated to himself.  

“Because Andy, every time for the last couple of months when we’ve gotten together, Miranda has been almost the only thing you’ve talked about. It’s always been Miranda this, and Miranda that. Did you not hear yourself? You’re always complaining about how much of a bitch she is to you and you keep asking me why she hates your guts like you expect me to know all the answers, which you know I don’t but you keep on asking anyway.” He paused for a moment, giving Andy the time to let the truth of the matter sink in. “So, why is that, Andy? Why do you care so much about what she might think of you?”  

“I don’t know, Doug.” She let out an aggravated sigh. “Honestly, I don’t know anything anymore. For some reason, I just can’t get the woman out of my head. I can’t stop thinking about her and it’s frustrating me to no end. She’s just so God damned infuriating!” She let out a tormented sigh. “I don’t know what to do anymore. I know I’m good, no, I’m fucking great at my job and I know she knows it too. Yet, she keeps on treating me like shit. Like I’m some sort of abhorrent peasant. Every day for the past two months she’s been squishing me under her heels for no apparent reason and it’s starting to drive me nuts. Even when I’ve managed to make sure her day has run effortlessly and into perfection, she looks at me with such disdain. I honestly have no idea why she hasn’t fired me yet if she hates it so much to look at me. And then, when I finally do something that gives her a valid reason to ban me from New York she-”  

“What? What did she do?” Doug encouraged her to continue, secretly enjoying watching his best friend in such a flustered state.  

“She does absolutely nothing?! I spoke against her. Against the unforgiving fucking Devil in Heels. I told her I won’t apologize for something I did she clearly disapproved of. I even interrupted her for God’s sake! And I swear she looked about on the verge to throw me out the window. I’d given her the perfect opportunity to verbally grind be into dust and then, all of a sudden, she decides to do nothing about it? I mean, what’s up with that? It doesn’t make any sense.” Groaning, she repeated. “She doesn’t make any sense.”  

Intrigued, elbows resting on the table between them, he leaned closer and whispered almost as if in secrecy. “So, what did you do to piss off her royal highness?”  

Crossing her arms over her chest, Andy said indignantly. “Be serious, Doug. This isn’t funny.” 

Trying with an almighty effort to keep his face as serious as he could, he tried again. “I know this isn’t funny, Andy. So, what did you do?”  

Looking away, Andy grumbled. “I spoke to one of her daughters.”   

Doug’s face contorted in confusion. “What? That’s it?” - Well, that was rather anti-climactic.  He mused to himself before continuing. “What’s so wrong about that?”  

“So, we’re not supposed to, Doug! It’s like way up there with the ‘no touching’ and ‘not asking questions’ rule, only worse. But I-… Well, I’ve been, y’know, sort of talking to the twins for a while now, without her knowledge, of course. I guess we’ve sort of bonded a little.”  

“You’ve bonded with the Devil’s spawn?! You’re right, this is weird.” Now it was Doug’s turn to look at her as if she’d grown another head.  

“Don’t call them that! They’re good kids. Sure, they were a couple of mean pranksters in the beginning, but once you get to know them, they’re actually really sweet.” Andy defended.  

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. Just didn’t see that one coming, is all. So, what happened?”  

“Well, Cassidy called out to me the other night when I dropped off the Book and she told me about something that’s been bothering her. Which was sort of a new development. We’ve only ever talked about school, friends, books, and random stuff before, but that night we talked about Miranda. I didn’t realize that Miranda was listening in on our conversation and consequently, she was in an impossible mood the next day. I didn’t know why she was so mad at first, but figured it out it was because of what I said to Cassidy, and then, well, y’know, that’s when I confronted her about it.”  

“So, the two of you budded heads but she didn’t lash out at you afterward?”   

Andy shook her head in response.  

“Why do you make it sound like that’s a bad thing?”  

“Because it was so unlike her, Doug. C’mon, you know how she is, what they say about her. She’s an unforgiving bitch. She holds a grudge against someone if they so much as get her coffee order wrong.”  

Suppressing an eye roll at his friend’s dramatics, he ventured further. “Right, so, what did you say to the kid that got Miranda so upset? About how she’s been treating you?”  

“No, no, nothing like that. She just missed her mother’s attention and felt a little insecure, I guess. I just told her that her mother loves her no matter what and tried to make her understand that Miranda’s job is incredibly demanding and stuff. She took it pretty well and we ended on a high note.”  

“So, you said nothing bad about Miranda that she overheard?”  

“No, on the contrary. I even praised her, talked her up like she’s some kind of superhero, for God’s sake, and I meant every word of it. I don’t want her daughter to think anything less of her. God knows how difficult her life already is with Runway, the divorce, and the press and all that. She doesn’t need her daughter to misunderstand her as well.”  

“That’s pretty big of you, Andy. Considering how she’s been treating you.”   

“Yeah, well.” Clearing her throat, she continued to vent. “So, I don’t get why Miranda was so mad in the first place, other than me talking to her kid. But that shouldn’t have been reason enough for her to be so angry the following day.”  

Doug pondered the situation for a moment, but it didn’t take him long to figure out what’s been really at play between the two women.  

My God, for all her smarts, she can really be so dense at times. He thought to himself.  

“Hm, did you ever stop to think that she wasn’t necessarily angry at you, babe?”  

Andy raised a questioning eyebrow at him. “Huh? What do you mean?”  

“Well, I don’t know her like you obviously do Andy, but could it be that she might’ve been angrier at herself than at you?”  

“I don’t get what you’re trying to say, Doug? Why would-”  

“C’mon, Andy. Her daughter confessed to her assistant that she’s sad because of her. The kid came to you to talk about it instead of her own mother. I’m pretty sure any mom would feel guilty about that. About their child running off to someone else for comfort.”  

Andy sat back, letting that sink in for a moment. When she reached the conclusion that Doug hit the nail on the head, her eyes widening in realization. - God, how could I have been so dense?  She berated herself.  

“Oh, my God. I think you’re right.”  

“Of course, I am.” Doug laughed at her astounded face.  

“Well, I guess, that’s good, isn’t it? I mean, y’know, that she isn’t angrier at me than she already is. Well, by much, but still, yeah.”  

Doug smirking wickedly. He knew there was so much more going on with his best friend that she was so obviously oblivious to, and he was going to have a damn good time making her see through her ignorance.  

Silence fell over them for several moments with Doug considering how best to approach the subject about his friend’s obsession.  

“Andy?”  

“Hmm?”  

“Why is this so important to you, anyway? I mean, she’s just your boss. A horrible one at that-”  

Andy blinked out of her seemingly content daze, interrupting Doug. “She’s not horrible-”  

“And why do you keep defending her when someone, other than you, says something bad about her?”  

“What? I’m doing no such thing!” She scoffed.  

“Except that you do, Andy. I mean, it’s okay for you to talk about how ridiculously mean, pompous and pretentious she is, but not when I do it. You don’t even read Page Six anymore because you don’t like what they write about Miranda.” He tried to make her see how unusual she’s been behaving.  

“I, I-” Andy frowned and shook her head. She hadn’t realized she did indeed defend Miranda when someone spoke ill of her until now. “I don’t know, Doug. What’s wrong with me? I should hate her guts because of the way she’s been treating me, shouldn’t I?”  

“But you don’t?” His question sounded more like a statement because he already knew the answer.  

“No, I guess not.” Shaking her head, Andy sat back in her seat, feeling a little confused by the revelation.   

“Then what do you think of her, other than her being a bitch to you?” Doug asked, a knowing look on his face.  

Andy looked heavenwards, thinking what a useless question that was, but then her mind drifted to Miranda, consuming her as she started to voiced her unfiltered thoughts. She gazed down over his shoulder, hazel eyes glazing over when she started to speak. “Well, I think she’s smart, crazy smart, brilliant more like it, and witty. God, she can be so funny sometimes even when she’s purposely not trying to be. I mean, she excels at dry humor and sarcasm, it’s seriously amusing to watch when it isn’t directed towards me. She’s so passionate about her work, it’s enthralling to watch her fall into it at times. And she’s so fucking confident it’s incredible. You can literally feel her presence even before you see her. Not to mention how beautiful she is. The way she dresses it’s-”  

“Andy-”  

“It’s amazing. The clothes she wears are amazing, but it’s her that makes them beautiful.” Andy continued on, not realizing Doug tried to interrupt her. “And her eyes-”  

“Andy-”  

“My God, I’ve never seen eyes like hers before. They’re so blue. After her cerulean rant, I’ve been trying to discern all the different shades and colors but none I’ve found matches the color of her eyes. And her hair-”  

“Andrea!”  

Andy blinked out of her stupor and focused back on Doug. “What?”   

He raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “My God, Andy. Do you even hear yourself?”  

Frowning in confusion she asked again. “What?”  

Sighing, he shook his head. - So dense, so fucking dense. He thought. Then looked back up, staring his friend in the eye and conveyed in all seriousness. “Girl, I think you’re in love.”  

“WHAT?!” Andy yelled incredulously, then proceeded to laugh as if he just made the joke of the year. “Don’t be ridiculous, Dougie.”  

Doug remained serious. “But I’m not. Did you really not hear yourself just now? I mean, I’ve known you since we were little kids and I’ve never heard you talk like you just did about someone. Not even Nate or any of your boyfriends or crushes before him for that matter. I’ve never even seen that look on your face you just had when you talked about her, and that’s saying something.”  

“C’mon, I’m not in love with her, Doug!” Andy retorted indignantly. “I envy and respect her, for sure. But love?! You’re insane. I’m straight for heaven’s sake.”  

“What do you think about her legs?” He deadpanned.  

“What? What kind of question is that?”  

“Just answer the question, babe.”  

Andy huffed, crossing her arms over her chest once more in her usual self-defending manner.  

“C’mon. Indulge me?” Doug asked sweetly.  

“I, I-” Andy sighed, then she complied to his frolic and tried to picture Miranda’s legs. Unconsciously her eyes closed and she started to see a picture in her mind’s eye.   

Elegantly crossed at the knee. Long, thin legs with smooth alabaster skin, and beautifully defined calves. Strong thighs, unfortunately, concealed by a tight charcoal pencil skirt. Five-inch, suede Louboutin heels on her feet, one of them salaciously drawing circles in the air. The whole picture was provocatively sensuous and frankly, it started to turn her on.  

Her eyes snapped open in shocked disbelief and she saw Doug holding out a napkin for her, a smug look on his face.  

“You’re drooling.” He teased. Andy quickly wiped her hand over her mouth before she realized he was joking.  

“Asshole.” She murmured, slumping down in her seat and crossing her arms over her chest.  

“Well?” Doug prompted.  

“Well, what?” Andy sneered.  

“What do you think of her legs?” He repeated the question, once again, already knowing the answer. 

Andy sat up straight, huffing. “Alright, fine! I see your point. She’s hot. Of course, she is. That doesn’t mean anything, y’know. I know you would even sleep with her if you’d ever got the chance. You, and any other gay men, and straight women, and the whole fucking world would, given the chance. But I’m not in love with her, Doug. That’s just preposterous.”  

My God! How can anybody be so ridiculously dense?! He thought to himself once more. “Are you sure about that? Because-”  

“Of course, I’m sure! It’s just a case of hero-worship or something, a little infatuation-”  

“A little?!”   

“But it’s not love, Doug! It’s not, it can’t be. She’s my boss for God’s sake! My older, mother of two, twice divorced, diabolical, wickedly vicious, insanely malicious boss. Not to mention that she hates my guts. How could I ever love someone like that?”  

“You forgot to mention that she’s a woman.” Doug grinned. “And, I don’t know, you tell me?   

Andy bitterly glared at him, then down at her lap as she let out a heavy sigh. Her head was pounding and she suddenly felt utterly exhausted and confused. This conversation hadn’t been at all what she had expected, nor its outcome. Thoughts swirled through her mind and she felt the need to escape from it all. Feeling confined sitting in the corner booth and needing desperately to breathe, she got up from her seat and looked down at her friend, a look of sadness on her face.  

“Thanks for the talk, Dougie.” - Not really. She thought. “But I’m going to head on home.”  

“Andy? Are you sure? I’m sorry if-” Worriedly, Doug looked up at his friend.  

“Yeah, I just-, need some time to process and stuff. I’ll call you, okay?”  

“Okay, love you.” Doug resigned, knowing his friend needed her space for now.  

“Love you, too,” Andy called out over her shoulder and exited the deli.  

Forgoing taking the subway back to her apartment, Andy absentmindedly picked a random direction and started walking. Intending to clear her head of all thoughts about Miranda but unsurprisingly, failed miserably.   

Me? In love with Miranda Priestly? That’s just utterly ridiculous. Andy thought to herself.  

For God’s sake, just several moments ago I didn’t even realize I could be attracted to another woman, let alone fall in love with one. I mean, seriously?! I just had to go and develop a crush on La Priestly, out of everyone!    

I must be insane. That’s obviously it, there must be something horribly wrong with me. There’s no other explanation.   

Really, I’m not in love with her. It’s just a ridiculous case of hero-worship.    

Well, duh! That’s exactly it... Right?   

I just envy her, respect her, even though she’s a bitch.    

Sure, she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on-   

“God damn it! I’m not in love with her! I’m so fucking not!” Andy groaned out in frustration, then looked up towards the heavens.  

“Miranda Priestly, what are you doing to me...” 

Chapter Text

Monday came sooner than Andy was ready for. She wasn’t even close to figuring out her thoughts and feelings over the weekend, having made them even more incomprehensible by drowning them out with cheap wine, and now she had to face the subject of said thoughts and feelings. Getting off the subway and walking towards the Starbucks in front of Elias-Clark to retrieve Miranda’s coffee, she made up her mind to try and forget about it all for now. She couldn’t afford to be distracted. Working for Miranda was already hard enough on any given day, working for Miranda and making a mistake because she couldn’t focus was simply unforgivable. So, Andy was left with no choice but to forget about her confusing thoughts, gather her wits and proceed the day like she had done for the last year, by being Miranda Priestly’s perfect, little lapdog.   

Unfortunately, all those thoughts were thrown out of the window as she watched Miranda step off the elevator onto the Runway floor.   

Oh, dear God! What have I done to deserve this?! Andy implored helplessly.  

Andy’s widened eyes couldn’t help but roam and absorb the overly alluring vision she was struck with. Wearing a tight, above-the-knee charcoal pencil skirt with short slits at the sides, clinging to sensual hips as if it were a second skin. Five-inch Louboutin's, clacking loudly on the marble floors, the sound sending shockwaves through Andy’s body. Her breath caught in her throat as she struggled to recall the list of errands Miranda was exacting. Unconsciously, Andy’s gaze dropped as she followed Miranda to the offices. For a moment she felt hypnotized as she watched enticingly swaying hips, and a slightly bouncing, firm derrière. Realizing what she was doing, she quickly snapped her head back up. When they arrived at the anteroom, she watched as Miranda undid the button of her burgundy wool cape. Sliding it off slender but imposing shoulders, to reveal a shimmering silk, white blouse with silver embroidery. The low cut showing just the right amount of cleavage that was still deemed appropriate for the workplace. A silver necklace spitefully taunting to attract the gaze between the valley of voluptuous breasts, completing the entire ensemble.  

Andy felt hot all over, her skin tingled, and she scrunched her teeth together, trying to get rid of the high-pitched tone she heard reverberating in her ears. Picking up the Starbucks cup from her desk, she followed Miranda into the inner office and placed it down on the glass desk with slightly trembling fingers. Andy kept her face downcast onto her notepad as she backed away from the desk, afraid the reaction she had to her boss was showing on her face.  

After writing down the last of Miranda’s initial list of instructions, she waited for the usual dismissal from the office. Several moments passed and when none was forthcoming, she dared to look up at Miranda, wondering why she hadn’t sent her away yet. For a second, she thought she was going to faint as she locked with Miranda’s eyes.   

Miranda was staring at her over her reading glasses, which were slid slightly down her imperial nose, sharp chin lightly tucked in which caused her iconic forelock to fall partly over her left eye. She ran the knuckle of her index finger over her bottom lip, elbow elegantly poised on the desk. Regal posture lightly bending forward, gave Andy a full display of cleavage and at the smooth skin of the slopes of her breasts. Underneath the glass desk, she saw alabaster legs, crossed at the knee with one foot slowly drawing circles in the air.   

Andy had to remind herself to breathe before she would pass out and forced her eyes back up to Miranda’s. If Miranda noticed the blatant perusal of her form, she didn’t let it show. Her face remained perfectly stoic as her gaze seemed to pierce right through Andy’s soul.  

“Is something wrong, Andréa?” Miranda queried in a bored voice. “Or did you forget your obnoxious defying little attitude at home today?” The rhetorical question definitely hid a hint of challenge in it.  

Mind still reeling from the vision that is Miranda Priestly, and trying to ignore the little jab she felt in her chest, Andy struggled to come up with a remark of her own as she stumbled over her words.  

“What? No, you-, I mean, I-, I-”  

“Not up for the challenge, I see. How disappointing.”  

“I-”  

“That’s all,” came the soft, disinterested dismissal, making the assistant blink out of her fluster. Turning around, she almost stumbled in her haste to leave the building to get on with her tasks for the day.   

***  

Sitting in the back of a town car on her way to fetch a selection of Hermès scarves, Andy was inwardly berating herself for her lack of decorum. She had been in such a shock for not being able to process the reaction her body had to Miranda that it had short-circuited her brain into mush.   

That had certainly never happened to me before, Andy mused. Why now, though?    

“It’s all Doug’s fault. Him and his stupid know-it-all face.” She grumbled out loud, ignoring the strange look the driver was giving her in the rear-view mirror.  

I need to snap out of it. I’m not some foolish high school girl fawning over some silly little crush.   

And it’s not a crush, damn it!    

She’s Miranda Priestly, for God’s sake. She’s literally the reincarnation of the Devil in Heels, an uber-bitch, and she hates me with a burning passion for crying out loud. How can I even remotely like someone like that 

Well, it doesn’t really matter, does it? As I said, she hates my guts. There’s no way she would ever see me as something more than just her obnoxious, defying little lapdog of an assistant.   

And it’s not like I want her to...   

Except, that I do.   

That was the whole point, wasn’t it? One of the main reasons why I returned to her in Paris.   

Next to saving any future career prospects, I wanted to show her that I wasn’t some ignorant coward who’d run away and quit when things started to get hard, or when faced with something I don’t like or don’t approve of.    

I realize what she did to Nigel was merely business, it was the only thing she could’ve done to save her own skin. Even if she could’ve done it differently, like not throw her most loyal employee unknowingly under the bus for example. But nooo, she couldn’t even have tried to be a bigger person.   

Yes, that’s exactly what I’d set out to prove to her. That I can become her equal, by not stabbing friends in the back. By not being such a degrading person to the people I work with.    

And well, if she’s that adamant on wanting to see me fail, if she’s that dead set on pointing out all the things she thinks I’m lacking, well, then she’s leaving me no choice but to show her that she made a huge mistake in underestimating me.    

I’ll show her that I’m not some worthless nobody. I’ll just have to make her notice me, make her regret, and take back all the mean things she’s said to me.   

Miranda Priestly, if you want a challenge, well then, you’ve just gotten yourself one.   

***  

Andy strode into the inner office, her gait powerful, and oozing self-confidence. A stark contrast to the flustered and stumbling woman of just a couple of hours ago. She set down the bags of samples she’d been sent out to gather all over the city on the coffee table in front of the couch in the corner of the room. Then she whipped out her notepad and leisurely stalked towards Miranda who was still seated behind her desk.  

“Everything you’ve asked for is in those bags. Galliano had a surprisingly small number of samples at the ready so I asked Westwood if they could spare some more of her newly finished designs since you’d taken a particular liking to her latest collection. Simons is back in New York, so I’ve taken the liberty to call his people. I’d heard through the grapevine that Vogue was hunting him down for an interview. Apparently, Simons is about to reveal a new line in collaboration with Prada. It took some convincing, but I was able to score an interview later this week. I’ve already sent out an email to Leanna to prepare, and I scheduled a lunch meeting with him at Le Bernardin on Wednesday.”  

Placing two manila folders on the desk, Andy continued. “Here are the lay-outs from the Bethesda shoot, and the information on that new photographer you were headhunting for. Your meeting with editorial had to be delayed because of some unforeseen complications but I made sure that they’d be ready by four, so I brought up the run-through to three-thirty. You’ll be ready to leave the office at five, in time to get home before the girls get back from their father’s.”  

The two women had fixed their stares at each other when Andy started listing off everything she’d accomplished over the past few hours, as if it all had been a piece of cake when in actuality, it had taken her a great deal of effort, especially in scoring that interview with Simons. She had to call in a few favors, but nevertheless succeeded and it hadn’t even been asked of her to do it. Knowing it would’ve been something Miranda would’ve wanted in finding out about the Prada collaboration. This was huge unannounced news and Andy silently swelled with satisfactory pride when she saw Miranda’s eyebrows raise slightly in surprise.  

They stared for several long moments, and this time, Andy didn’t even try to hide the smugness that she felt. But she also couldn’t help but notice that Miranda’s eyes were a slightly darker shade than usual.   

Not quite as dark as an ocean blue, they’re more like opal orbs, with their arctic ice still twinkling in their depths. Andy mused. Then her mind screeched to a halt.   

What am I thinking?!    

Focus, Andy. C’mon, focus.   

But my God, I’ve never seen anything quite like them. They’re beau-   

Focus, Andy!   

Oh, she’s raising her eyebrow in that haughty way she does. You know what’s coming now, don’t you, Andy?   

“Well, you’ve certainly gone out of your way to fetch, haven’t you, Andréa?” Miranda said, malice slightly hinting in her tone, obviously aggravated that Andy hadn’t given her anything to complain over.  

“Of course, Miranda. Just doing my job, after all.” Andy responded feigning innocence, flashing her mega-watt smile.  

“And, pray tell, why are you still here, breathing the same air as me? Are you expecting a nice little pat on the back, for me to give you a gold star on the forehead or God forbids, even a ‘thank you’ perhaps?”   

“Oh, no. Certainly not, Miranda. I’m merely waiting for you to tell me what else I can do for you.” Andy quipped back.  

“You-” Miranda began, but Andy pretended not to notice Miranda was about to speak and interrupted.  

“But since I’m clearly not needed at the moment, I’ll be heading off to Nigel’s.”  

With a face-splitting grin, Andy turned on her heel and sashayed out of the office.  

How do you like them apples, boss?  Andy chuckled to herself.   

***  

“Nigel!”  

“WHA-?!” The art director jumped up from the stool he was sitting on where he’d been inspecting picture proofs with a thread counter. “Damn you, Six! Don’t do that to me. Not if you want me to suffer from a heart attack.”  

“Sorry, sorry. Couldn’t help myself.” Andy chuckled, wiping away a tear from the corner of her eye after her laughter had settled down.  

“Mhm, I’m sure you couldn’t.” Nigel queried skeptically. Then he promptly spun his stool back around facing his desk and continued on with the proofs.   

Andy perched on the corner of his desk and patiently waited for him to acknowledge her again. After several long moments, her patience was rewarded.  

“Is there a reason why you’ve decided to breathe the same air as me?” Nigel asked, not looking away from his desk as he circled out a selection of pictures he deemed suitable.  

“Funny, Miranda just said the exact same thing. She must be rubbing off on you.” Andy jested back.  

“I’m not sure if I should consider that a compliment or not.” Nigel looked up, genuinely confused for a second, then shrugged it off, his face turning back to feigned boredom.  

“Yeah, that’s a tough one.” Andy joked.   

“So, why have you decided to grace me with your perky presence, or are you simply here wasting my time?” Nigel stood up, proofs in hand, and walked over to the other side of his office to a file cabinet.  

“I need a favor.” Andy deadpanned, following Nigel right at his heels.  

“Oh, dear God, help me. What is it this time?” He asked dramatically, pulling out a manila folder from a drawer.  

“I need another make-over.” At that, Nigel finally decided to face her.  

“What? Why? You’ve been dressing yourself rather tolerably..., and if you repeat that, I’ll deny it.” He looked her up and down, nodding slightly at her ensemble, which consisted of a Saunt Laurent floral silk blouse tucked in a high-rise camel brown Alexander McQueen trousers, and black Jimmy Choo 3.5-inch heels.  

“Wow, such high praise coming from you. She’s definitely rubbing off on you, Nige.” Andy smirked, their banter easily flowing between them.  

“Ha-ha. Care to explain why you need my worldly desired assistance again?”  

“Careful, dear. If you keep talking about yourself like that, those turtle neck sweaters won’t be able to fit around your neck next winter.”  

“Careful, dear.” He tapped the manila folder he was holding on top of Andy’s head. “If you keep it up like that, you won’t be getting anything from me.”  

“Right, sorry. So, what d’ya say, my lovely fairy Godfather? You wanna help vamp me up?” Andy flashed him her trademark smile. 

Nigel suspiciously raised an eyebrow at her. “My, such groveling, Six. This must be serious. Vamp you up, you say? Why?”  

Andy shrugged. “Well, I guess I’ve grown rather bored with the way I dress. It’s rather-”  

“Comfortably dull?” He quipped.  

“Gee thanks, but yeah. I want to try something new.” Andy said, looking down for a moment to avert from his curious gaze. “Something a little more... daring.”   

Leaning in closer as if they were having a secretive exchange, Nigel queried. “You seeking someone’s approval, dear Six? A new boy-toy perhaps?” 

“What? No!” Andy nearly squeaked, then cleared her throat. “Nothing like that, I swear. Just want to spice things up a little. Venture out of my comfort zone. I work for Runway, after all. Shouldn’t I at least try a little harder to represent our image? You know as well as I do that we have a certain reputation to uphold, right?” Andy tried to steer him away from the real reason why she was asking for his help but could see in his eyes that the attempt was in vain. 

Not being fooled, Nigel turned serious. “This is rather unlike you, Six. What did Miranda say to you?” 

Andy looked away again, trying to fight the oncoming blush she felt creeping up her chest. “Uhm, Miranda? I didn’t say- What does she have to do with it?”  

Nigel scoffed as he crossed his arms over his chest. “She has everything to do with it. C’mon, Andy. I know you. I know you don’t give a rat's arse about Runway’s image, and I’m not taking offense by that coming from you, so don’t worry about that. But I do need to know why you’re suddenly so keen on seeking out Miranda’s approval, even more than you’ve already been doing since Paris.”  

“I’m not necessarily seeking out her approval,” Andy mumbled. 

Nigel scoffed once more in disbelief. “Right.”  

Sighing, Andy tried to explain without giving too much away. “I’m just sick and tired of all the cutting remarks, y’know? I know that’s what she does and who she is, but even you have to admit that she’s been treating me worse than anyone else, and no matter what I do or say, she’s not letting up. I just want to show her that I’m more than what she thinks of me.”  

Nigel narrowed his eyes as he looked at her for a moment. “That still sounds like seeking out her approval to me.”  

“Okay, fine. I am!” She threw her hands in the air in an exasperated manner. “I want to show her that I’m not the same naïve, little Andy I was when I first started out here or that foolish girl that turned her back on her in the middle of Fashion Week. I want to prove that she’s wrong about me. That I do have a spine and that I am indeed capable of achieving success, whilst oozing fucking confidence in doing so.” Andy placed her hands on her hips as she pierced him with her gaze. “So, will you help me or not?”  

A wide, devilish grin spread across Nigel’s face. “Oh, my dear Six. You had me at make-over.” 

Chapter Text

“What in the bloody hell are you wearing?!” Came she squealing question from the red-haired first assistant.   

“My, those pants certainly seem like they were made for you, querida.” Serena commented, sliding her glasses down her nose and slowly perused Andy from head to toe.   

Andy grinned from ear to ear. “Why, thank you, Serena. Though I must admit, these are seriously like the least comfortable pants ever, and don’t even get me started on the bodice or the heels for that matter.” Andy gestured to her outfit.    

The midnight blue, faux-leather Tom Ford dress pants were easily the tightest pants she’d ever worn, clinging to every inch of her skin. Not to mention that her feet felt like they were being tortured in 4.5-inch strappy metallic Gianvito Rossi stiletto’s, and the black lace and silk bodice she wore under the gun-metal grey, see-through D&G blouse was squeezing her breasts almost painfully together. To say that this was the most uncomfortable outfit she’d ever worn was a huge understatement. But God damn, she’d never felt so hot in her entire life before, making the sweet torture certainly worth it. Separately, the pieces were rather provocative, but Andy loved the fact that the entire ensemble put together gave off a sensually but mostly regally classic vibe.   

“Here, put this on.” The blonde beauty director handed Andy a tube of blood-red lipstick.   

“Ooh, that’s gorgeous. Thanks, Serena.”   

“Not unlike you, querida.” Serena winked, smiling lusciously. “I’m definitely not complaining, but what brought about this change?”   

Blushing, Andy shrugged her shoulders. “Just trying something different. Runway’s all about innovation, isn’t it? Seems only right to follow its ethos.”   

“Yes, well. About bloody time for you to start learning a thing or two about what goes on around here.” The haughty redhead said, seemingly unable to take her eyes off Andy’s form.   

Andy jested, grinning widely.  “Oh,  Em . Does that mean you approve?”   

Emily scoffed as she rolled her eyes. “I wouldn’t go  that  far, but I hate to admit that you’re not entirely atrocious looking.”   

“Wow.” Andy breathed, flashing her face-splitting grin once more. “I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”   

Emily’s response was to sniff and roll her eyes again, causing the two other women in the anteroom to laugh out loud.   

***   

Coming in from an early breakfast meeting with a new up-and-coming designer, Miranda strode into the anteroom, flinging her coat and bag on Andy’s desk, and continued into the inner office without so much as a glance towards her assistants.   

Andy was practically vibrating in her seat, waiting impatiently for Miranda to call her in. For over an hour, the assistants continued on with their respective tasks, firing off emails, taking phone calls, scheduling meetings, and updating said schedule. Then the inevitable call was made.   

“Andréa.” Came the soft voice from Miranda.   

With a jump-start, Andy’s heartbeat sped up as she gathered her pen and notepad, and got up from behind her desk, striding into the Devil’s lair with lightning speed.   

Miranda sat behind her desk, head down, examining several layouts that were spread out across in front of her.   

“Get me a coffee and cancel any further appointments with that ridiculous oaf of a man who just wasted my time over breakfast. Have a selection of Chanel’s spring collection delivered by this afternoon, complete with accessories, and email me a list of suitable models for the Bannerman ruins shoot, aristocratic features are a must. Yesterday’s meeting with editorial was sorely lacking any competence, you’re sitting in on  toda -… -y’s...”    

Andy looked up from her notepad, just in time to see the look of utter astonishment on Miranda’s face. A look that was never seen before within the walls of Runway. Miranda seemed to have forgotten herself for a moment, belatedly schooling her mask back in place. Andy was painfully clenching her jaw tight, trying desperately not to grin like an idiot, but couldn’t hide the triumphant twinkle in her eyes.    

“You’re taking notes on today’s conference.” Miranda finished, voice slightly hollow as her eyes perused Andy from chest to toe and back up, lingering imperceptibly longer on the chest part. However, Andy had taken notice.   

“Yes, Miranda,” Andy confirmed more slowly and lowly than she usually did.  

The editor blinked and snapped her eyes back up, piercing Andy with a narrowed gaze.   

As was starting to become a regular occurrence and customary exchange between the two women, they stared back into each other’s eyes with neither woman showing any signs of yielding first.   

Andy felt the entire world start to fade into the background until there was nothing left but the space between them. The nearly visible tension between them seemed to thicken, so much so that even the sharpest pair of scissors wouldn’t have been able to cut through it. Electrifying energy crackled all around them, tingling Andy’s skin and making the tiny hairs all over her body raise to attention.   

This time, Andy didn’t let herself get lost in all the sensations though. She took advantage of the tension and energy, wielding them in munition, letting them charge her spirits, and strengthen her resolve.    

With their resolutely locked gaze as their ostensibly only form of communicable connection between them, Andy tried to convey her thoughts through her fiery hazel eyes.   

That’s right.  See me , Miranda.   

I’m not afraid of you any longer, nor will I ever be again.    

And I,  see you .    

You’re simply human, like the rest of us.   

You just proved that you’re not unaffected by me.   

And this won’t be all I’ve got up my sleeve for you.   

You just wait and see, Miranda.   

You just wait and  see  

Slowly but surely, Miranda started to rise from her seat with unparalleled elegance. Fingertips pressing down on the surface of the glass desk, Miranda leaned forward as if readying herself to jump across and attack Andy.   

“And just what do you think you are doing, Andréa?” Miranda sneered menacingly.   

Andy stately stalked forward until she reached the desk, and slowly imitated Miranda’s stance, placing her fingertips on the surface and leaning forward. Miranda’s unique and heavenly perfume permeated her senses, making her head buzz pleasantly. She had to bite on the tip of her tongue to not let herself get distracted by the lightness it started to cause in her mind. With a smug smirk, it thrilled her to notice that she stood slightly taller than Miranda, causing her to look down into her eyes.   

My job , Miranda.” Andy taunted.   

Another moment of silence passed between them with Andy fighting the magnetic pull she felt to lean in even further.   

Miranda’s tone had dropped slightly, causing a shiver to run up and down Andy’s spine. “What exactly are you trying to prove, Andréa?”   

Still boldly smirking, Andy said. “That I am capable of doing anything, Miranda. Don’t you know that by now?”  

Miranda spoke as if she were talking to an ignorant child.  “And you think that changing your appearance, will suddenly help you achieve in doing so?”    

“No.” Andy stopped resisting the magnetic pull and leaned in slightly. “But my actions from here on out most definitely will. You just wait and see.  Miranda .” She said, purring Miranda’s name.   

And then it happened.    

Alert and intrigued, Andy watched as the slight chink in the Devil’s armor exposed itself.   

Arctic-turned-opal orbs darkened to a deep oceanic blue, nearly swallowed whole by the black of her pupils as the gaze dropped to the blood-red, lipstick coated full lips.    

But just as Miranda’s resolve had wavered by breaking their gaze, so did Andy’s as her breath caught in her throat and eyes slightly widened in ambivalence.   

Andy’s misstep didn’t go unnoticed by Miranda either, who drew back and standing up straight, broke the spell that had been cast upon them.   

Miranda smirked devilishly as she raised an immaculate eyebrow.  “Well, then start by making yourself useful for once and stop wasting my time. I do not care what you do to make you feel better about yourself. Really, what I do not understand is why you’re currently not running off to fetch me my coffee?”  

Miranda’s tone was deadly, dripping with poison, making another shiver run up Andy’s spine, but not in a good way.  “Or has that suddenly become too difficult for your little brain to comprehend, Andréa?”   

“No, I-” Andy tried, but to no avail.   

“No?” A shark-like grin crept up Miranda’s features. “Well, then stop bothering me with your obnoxious presence and go  fetch . That’s all.” She flicked her hands in a shooing motion, dismissing Andy from her office.   

Andy had to suppress a groan and walked away, feeling her spirits deflate, and set about in doing what she was told to do.   

You’ve become quite the conceited, cheeky little lapdog, haven’t you, Andréa?  Miranda’s voice hit her in the forefront of her mind.   

***   

“I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, Doug.” Andy groaned into her phone went she heard the tell-tale click of her friend picking up.   

“Well, hello to you too, Andy. I had a great day, thank you for asking.” Doug jested.   

“Seriously, I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I realize I’m desperately seeking out her approval but for what? For her to just continue mocking me? Telling me time and time again how insignificant I am to her? I don’t know why I let it bother me this much. It doesn’t make any sense.” Andy ranted in frustration. She heard Doug sigh loudly over the phone.   

“Didn’t we already go over this? It’s because you’re, for some unfathomable reason, in l-”   

Andy interrupted, yelling in exasperation. “I’m NOT in love with her, for crying out loud!”    

Doug joshed back.  “Yeah, just keep telling yourself that, babe. I’m sure that will solve your issues.”   

“Love has got nothing to do with it, Doug. Trust me, I definitely don’t want to love that woman. Apart from her children, I don’t think Miranda is capable of being nice to anyone.” Andy crashed down onto her couch, almost spilling the cheap wine from the heavily filled glass she held in her other hand.   

Incredulity lacing his voice, Doug asked. “So, is that it? You want the Dragon Lady to be nice to you?”  

“Don’t call her that,” Andy grumbled, then rolled her eyes at herself for defending the woman she was currently so frustrated with. “And no, that’s like reaching for the stars, Doug.”  

He dramatically rolled his eyes, taking advantage of the fact that his friend couldn’t see him. “So, what then? What is it that you want from her?”   

“I-, y’know.” Andy sounded uncertain.   

“You what?” He prompted.  

Hesitantly, Andy admitted. “I want her to see that I’m worth something.”    

“Why?” Doug pressed on.   

“I-, I -,...  I don’t know!” Andy huffed as she ran her hand through her damp tresses, then pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers in a very Miranda-like gesture. “I just want her to stop being so fucking condescending all the time.”   

Doug smirked to himself. “So, you  do  want her to be nice to you? Aren’t you reaching for the stars, babe?”   

“...” Andy nibbled on the nail of her thumb, hating the fact that his friend seemed to be right all the time.  

“Andy?”   

Sighing deeply, Andy resigned. “I don’t know what else to do, Doug. I broke my back for her this week, went above and beyond everything that was expected of me. I even let Nigel revamp me into a classy courtesan, for God’s sake.”   

Doug’s eyebrows shot heavenwards. -  God, I have to see that!  He thought to himself. “He did? Wow, how’d that go?”   

Taking the last swig from her glass, Andy laid down on the couch and started twirling a strand of hair around her index finger. “Started out pretty well the first day, I guess. But I haven’t seen much of her afterward. Every time she’s in, she’s sending me out, and every time I’m in, she’s out. It’s like she’s avoiding me like the plague or something.”   

Interesting . He mused. “So, what happened that first day?”   

Andy looked up at the ceiling, remembering their tension-filled moment, and promptly told herself that it is because of the wine why she felt a blush creep up her cheeks. “Well, she obviously wasn’t expecting the change. I caught her off guard for a moment, but nothing else. As I said, I haven’t really seen much of her this week.”   

Doug sensed that his friend wasn’t entirely forthcoming, but decided not to poke the bear too much. “You caught her off guard and now she’s avoiding you like the plague?”  - Oh! Wait a minute. Hmm, who would’ve thought? My God, she’s dense, so fucking dense.  He shook his head.   

Andy queried. “What are you thinking, Doug?”    

Doug grinned devilishly.   “Oh, nothing really. Except that we’re going out tomorrow night.”    

Sighing, Andy mumbled. “I’m not really in the mood-”   

“C’mon, Andy." Doug wasn’t having it. “You need to let off some steam. We’re going out, forget about a certain silver-haired woman and have some intoxicated fun. Before you drive yourself completely bonkers trying to please said silver-haired woman.”   

Andy annoyingly realized he was right, again. “Alright, fine. You’re right. I do want to forget about it all, even if it’s just for one night.”   

If Doug had both his hands free, he would’ve clapped them together gleefully. “Great!”   

***   

“You dragged me to a gay club?!” Andy had to nearly shout at her friend to be heard over the loud, booming music.   

“Yeah! Isn’t it great! I figured we should explore little queer Andy for the night.” Doug grinned excitingly, motioning for the bartender to refill their shot glasses.   

Andy frowned and crossed her arms over her chest, huffing, she said. “You’re being ridiculous, Doug. I’m not queer.”   

A mischievous twinkle sparked in Doug’s eyes. “ Mhmm , what do you think of Miranda’s breasts?”   

Andy's eyes widened as she blushed profusely. “No, we’re not going there!”   

Leaning in closer, he wickedly whispered in her ear. “You sure you don’t want to go  in  there?”   

“Stop it!” Andy squeaked, causing Doug to grab his belly in laughter.   

Still chuckling, he said. “Aw, stop your pouting. It’s unattractive. You’re not going to get laid if you keep moping like that.”   

Rolling her eyes, Andy shook her head. “I don’t want to get laid, Doug.”   

“Not even by Mir- Auch!” Andy punched him. “Ok, I deserved that,” Doug said, rubbing his arm.  

“That, and so much more,” Andy grumbled.  

Doug grinned, holding out his hand to her.  “Alright, fine. Let’s make a deal. Every time one of us mentions Miranda, that person has to down a shot.”   

Andy narrowed her eyes and looked at him quizzically. Then shook his hand. “Deal.”   

Not letting go of her hand, Doug dragged his friend along with him towards the dancefloor. “C’mon, let’s live a little!”   

***   

Andy was starting to feel the effects of the several shots she’d had to drink. Her mind was buzzing pleasantly, and her body tingled thrillingly as her hips loosened up, swaying to the beat of the music blasting through the speakers. It felt good to be out of her little apartment and not having to think about anything work-related as the alcohol and music drowned out her thoughts. She enjoyed being swept up in the throng of people surrounding her, having an honestly good time, and not being judged by any of them. Feeling the tension that had accumulated over the past several months drain away from her body, Andy gave in to the freeing sensations and started dancing without having a care in the world.   

Several women came up to her, exchanging charming and flirtatious banter, offering her drinks which she sometimes accepted and other times politely declined. Andy reveled in the attention, from the overly gay men complimenting her on how well she wore the dark ruby, chiffon Michael Kors cocktail dress, and the butch women trying to charm her in exchanging phone numbers.   

“Your turn to get drinks!” Doug slurred, unnecessarily loud in her ear. “Get me another mojito!”   

“Fine!” She shouted back.   

Andy made her way through the crowded dancefloor towards the bar and gestured for the bartender. Waiting for her turn, Andy turned sideways and watched as people of all walks of life danced and mingled with each other, a contented grin lingering on her face.   

“I was about to ask if you’ve been here before, but then realized how stupid that sounded.”   

She heard a woman say from behind her and turned around to face her, her smile widening. The woman was beautiful, seemed to be about the same age as Andy, with long, wavy caramel blonde hair with a dark blue streak in the front, sapphire blue eyes, and flashing a blinding smile that rivaled Andy’s own.   

Laughing, Andy engaged. “That’s all right. I’m pretty horrible at pick-up lines myself.”   

The bartender came up to her. “What can I  get’ya ?” He asked.   

“Two mojitos and-?” Andy looked back at the blonde, asking with her smile and eyes what the other woman wanted to drink.   

“Oh, uhm, gin-tonic.” The blonde grinned.  

“-and a gin-tonic, please.” Andy finished placing their order and faced her company once more. “I’m Andy.” She said, holding out her hand. The blonde’s warm hand slid into hers, gripping it tightly.    

“Louise. I’ve never seen you around here before. I’m sure I would’ve remembered you if I did.” She said, slowly letting go of Andy’s hand.   

Andy laughed. “Ok, yeah. You’re much better at pick-up lines than I am. And no, it’s my first time. My very out-going and very gay friend dragged me out here tonight.”   

“Your friend had to drag you? Why? Is this not your usual scene?” Louise queried.   

Andy’s smile faltered slightly. “Well, I-, no, not really, but… maybe?”   

Chuckling, Louise took a step closer. “You didn’t seem bothered by my attempt at a pick-up line. So, I’m guessing you’re more of a maybe rather than a not really?” She smiled flirtatiously as she perused Andy from top to bottom.    

Andy blushed. “I-”   

“Here you go!” The bartender placed their drinks in front of them.   

“Thanks!” Andy smiled at him. She picked up the gin-tonic and handed it over to Louise, who took it from her, fingers brushing over hers.   

“Thanks, Andy.” Louise flashed her face-splitting smile again.   

“You’re welcome. I’m  gonna  hand this one over to my friend, but uhm, you  wanna  join us?” Andy asked hesitantly.    

Louise nodded with a glint in her eyes. “Love to.” She gestured towards the dancefloor. “Lead the way.”    

***   

After another mojito, Andy felt suitably drunk, her inhibitions drowned out, pushed back deep into the recesses of her mind. Warm hands circled around her waist and she leaned in backward against a swaying body, her hips joining and matching the sensual movements.   

“God, you’re so beautiful, Andy,” Louise whispered, lips brushing against the shell of her ear.  

Grinning and feeling intoxicatingly bold, Andy turned around within the circle of arms and raised hers to rest upon slender shoulders. Louise’s arms tightened their hold, pulling Andy’s body flush against hers as they continued to dance to the rhythm of the music.    

Andy was entranced in the feeling of a warm and curvaceous body pruriently moving against hers. It was an entirely new experience, but nevertheless she reveled in the exotic feeling.   

When sapphire eyes, once again, locked with her hazel ones, Andy smiled and feeling emboldened she leaned in closer. “I love the way you move against me.”    

Andy watched as pupils dilated and she bit down on her bottom lip as Louise’s tongue poked out to moisten hers. Without thinking, Andy leaned in and captured Louise’s plump lips.   

They kissed slowly at first, lips brushing lightly over each other.    

God, I’ve never felt lips this soft before,  Andy mused in her drunken haze.  

Pressing in further, the intensity grew in fervor. Bodies brushed against each other, radiating off heat, as their hands roamed, their touches burning through their dresses.    

Bottom lip being caught between sharp teeth had Andy groaning and then moaning as a hot tongue ran over it to soothe out the sting. Andy’s mind grew salacious as her hands  intriguingly  explored voluptuous rounds and curves, wantonly kissing back. Lips parted and tongues ventured forward, stroking and tasting each other.   

Fuck, she tastes so sweet, slightly bitter, but so good,  Andy thought to herself.   

I wonder what Miranda tastes like.   

With a gasp, Andy pulled back, instantly snapping out of her lustful daze.   

With hooded eyes, Louise looked at her questioningly. “ Wha -”    

“I’m sorry. I-” Andy breathes as she looked around, trying to find Doug.    

“Andy? Is everything ok?” Louise asked, pulling Andy closer again.   

Stepping back from their embrace, Andy looked everywhere except at Louise. “Yeah, I’m fine! I-, I’m sorry. I have to go.”    

Spinning on her heel, Andy rushed off, bumping and pushing through the bodies on the dancefloor. The cold night air hit her, biting her exposed skin but she welcomed the sensation, awakening her intoxicated mind and senses. She didn’t stop walking until she was a block away from the club. Leaning her back against a wall, curling her arms over her middle, she started to deeply breathe in and slowly out, trying to calm her racing heartbeat and swirling thoughts.  

What the fuck just happened?!!   

Why did I do that?! Kiss her like that?!   

And why did I-…?   

Why did I like it so much?   

God, I fucking loved it, but I don’t.   

I fucking hate it, but I don’t.   

What the fuck’s wrong with me?   

Does-, does this mean that I’m gay? Or bi? Or whatever?   

And why-…?   

Why can’t I help but wonder-…, what Miranda would taste like?   

Would her lips be as soft as Louise’s?    

Or softer?   

Warmer?   

How would her lips move against mine?   

Would she bite like-   

What?!!   

What the heck am I thinking?!   

Of course, she wouldn’t!   

She’d never kiss me.   

Fuck, she’ll never kiss me...   

She’ll never...   

She’ll never want me.   

But I-…   

I think I want her.   

I want her.    

Tears started to roll down Andy’s flushed cheeks as she looked up at the darkness of the night’s sky.   

I want Miranda Priestly.   

But she’ll never want me.  

Chapter Text

Andy woke up with a tormented groan as she buried her face into her lumpy pillow. Her feet hurt, her head pounding, and she had a foul taste in her dry mouth. Rolling onto her back, she slowly blinked her eyes open, letting them rest on a crack in the ceiling.   

Has that crack gotten bigger?  Andy mused drily.   

An accurate reflection of my soul, no doubt.    

God, I’m hopeless.    

Slowly she sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed, staring at a stain on the wall opposite her.   

Has that always been there?   

Ha! An accurate reflection of the stain Miranda has left on my soul, no doubt.    

God, I’m so fucking hopeless.   

Getting up, Andy strolled towards the bathroom. After relieving herself, she stripped out of her underwear, gathered her toothbrush and toothpaste, and walk into the shower.   

She brushed her teeth as she let the hot water hit her neck and shoulders, loosening the tension in her sore muscles. After washing off last night’s sweat and alcohol from her hair and body, she stepped out of the shower and placed her toothbrush back into the cup on the sink. Hesitantly, she looked up and stared at herself in the mirror.    

The reflection looked like a stranger to Andy. She didn’t recognize the dull, somber look in her eyes. With lacking effort, she tried smiling at herself, already knowing it wouldn’t reach her eyes. Shaking her head in condescension, she left the bathroom and went to put on a pair of baggy sweatpants and her old Northwestern sweater. Foregoing breakfast, Andy switched on her rattling coffee machine and pushed herself up onto the counter facing the window.   

What am I going to do?   

What  can  I do?   

She looked down and watched her legs swaying underneath her. Hearing the beeping signal from the coffee machine, Andy slid off the counter and set about in making a latte by simply adding some milk from a carton.    

Definitely not a center-of-the-sun latte for me, thank you very much.   

Seriously, how can she drink something that hot and not burn her tongue?   

Nothing about her makes any sense.   

Sitting down on her couch, the young woman languidly sipped from her mug, staring at her blurry reflection on the TV-screen.   

How did I get here?    

Fallen for a woman who’s never even been nice to me.   

I don’t understand how that even happen in the first place?   

She’s almost twice my age, vile, and hates me.    

And yet, I want her.   

But why?   

Why do I feel as I do?   

Why do I want her?   

I need to figure that out.   

I need to...   

Write.   

You’re a writer, aren’t you, Andy?   

Yes.   

I need to write.   

Getting up from the couch, Andy walked back into the kitchen and placed her empty mug in the sink. Grabbing a pen and notebook out of her purse, she sat down at her small dining table, opened up her notebook to a blank page, and poised the hand holding the pen over it. Once its tip connected with the paper, Andy lost herself into a stream of consciousness.    

 ***  

What is it that you do to me? 
What have you done to have made me feel this way?  
I close my eyes, and all I see are blue eyes staring back at me.  
Those eyes, oh, what they do to me...  

As cold as the Arctic.   
Chilling me, making me shiver to the bone.   
Freezing me into numbness with their cool intensity.   
Wounding me with their wintry biting stings.   
Awakening me with their icy sharpness.   
Penetrating, piercing me with their frigid icicles,   
and now my soul is bleeding.  

As fiercely scorching as an inferno, burning me with their fiery intensity.   
Their impassioned ferocity, igniting my dormancy in revelation.   
Their blazing flaring fires inflaming my desires, illuminating the darkest hidden parts of me.  
Their raging devilish wildfire incinerates all that I am,   
and now my soul has disintegrated into ashes.  

A hidden depth as deep as the ocean.   
Drowning me, making me lose my breath.   
Their distance so vast, as I cast away, adrift on the horizon.   
Their bottom unreachable, concealing unknown deepness with their shadows lurking, swallowing me whole.   
Their raging, storming waves crash into me, sweeping me away in their torrent, flooding me,   
and now the life that is my soul has decayed away.  

As rich as the most exquisite opals.   
Their ethereal brilliance blinding me, leaving me unseeing in the darkness.   
Their colors ever-changing, conveying wisdom and knowledge, a deeper understanding of the world they see, and yet, they do not see me.   
Their vision all-seeing, and yet again, they do not see me, having left me unseeing in the darkness,  
and now my soul is lost by their refined purification, and will forever be polished clean of me.  

Miranda Priestly. Why has your existence forsaken me?  
What reasons have you given to have consumed my mind, body, and soul?  

Is it in the way you carry yourself?   
How you emanate formidable elegance, always so confident, moving in celestial grace?  
Is it your unrivaled passion for beauty and perfection?  
The extraordinary way that you perceive the world?  
How you can see the appeal in the most insignificant smallest of things?  
How your genius artistry can mold from clay, breathe life into infinitesimal matter, and create unequaled magical brilliance?  

Miranda Priestly. Why do you hide behind a façade?  
Why have you built your walls so high and thick?  

I have glimpsed the woman that lay underneath.  
A loving and protective nature, who would do everything within their power to not let any harm come to their children.  
The vulnerable human that cares so deeply, that even tears have made their existence known, wetting beautiful cheeks.  

Miranda Priestly. You are not all-powerful.  
Even you will need someone to rely on when faced with things you cannot handle alone.  
Even you will need someone to share the heavy burden you carry on your shoulders.  
Even you will need someone who will offer up their shoulder for you to cry on.  
Even you will need someone who will love you forever, so your soul won’t drown in loneliness.  

And I know.  

My heart breaks with the knowledge, that I will never be that someone.  

And now I know.  

That I have fallen in love with Miranda Priestly.   

***  

And now I know,  Andy thought to herself.   

Setting down the pen, the young woman got up from her seat and walked over to the window. Thick and dark clouds colored the sky an ominous grey. She watched as a rain droplet landed on the window, rolling down a crinkling path, getting absorbed by another droplet, following a different crinkling path, getting absorbed once more, and crinkling down until it disappeared over the edge.   

I just watched myself, didn’t I?   

I have fallen, have been consumed by her, and I will continue to fall a stumbling path until there’s nothing left of me.   

A flash lit up the darkened obscure sky, fleetingly lightening up Andy’s face. A moment later came the crackling sound before the booming thunder.   

No.   

Andy turned around and strode off to the bedroom. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she put on her running shoes and tied up her hair.   

As she left the apartment building, Andy started to run through the heavy downpour. Going on and on, not knowing how much time was passing, she continued to run, letting the rain wash over her in a cold, cleansing revitalization. The longer she felt her heart rapidly beating in her chest, the more reenergizing she felt, charging her in fortitude.   

No.   

I won’t be dragged down by anyone.   

That's not who I am.   

I'm Andy fucking Sachs, God damn it!   

I can do anything.   

I can do the impossible.  

I will overcome everything.   

I won’t fall.   

I will climb.   

I’ll fucking climb.   

Until I’ve reached the top.   

I love Miranda Priestly.   

But I will not let it break me.   

She will not break me.   

I can’t be broken.   

Not even by her.   

Try as she might.   

She won’t succeed.   

But I will.   

I’ll leave her no choice.   

She’ll see me.   

I’ll make her see me.   

And I won’t care when she does.   

Because I’ll have reached the top.   

Because I’m Andy  fucking  Sachs.   

And I  can  do anything.   

***   

After taking another shower, this time at lightning speed instead of the previous languid one. Andy redressed, started up her laptop, and began searching high and low for all kinds of different consequential subjects she could write about. With her revived spirits all fired up, Andy scribbled down, crossed out, underlined, and encircled in her notebook.  

Researching to such an extent, the journalist graduate started to grow confident in her abilities, convinced that she will in no doubt finish up writing down several articles by the end of the weekend. Her mind whirled with ideas as she fell into a steady pattern of searching, reading, and writing, nearly combusting with inspiration.   

Gone was the dull and somber look in her hazel eyes of this morning, or the forced smile that didn’t reach her eyes. In their place were bright glistening eyes, and a lingering face-splitting grin.   

Andy hardly slept, too excited and too frenzied to rest. By late Sunday evening, feeling profoundly proud of herself, she’d finished several articles that were some of the best writings she’d ever done. Fishing out her wallet from her purse, she extracted all the business cards she’d collected from various editors or people who knew people she had met at meetings and events she’d attended over the past year in service of Runway. Andy fired off emails, attached with her articles, to the addresses from the business cards and to several she knew by heart from having sent out countless before working as an assistant.    

Crashing down on her bed, well past midnight, and suddenly feeling utterly exhausted, Andy’s lights fell out within the blink of an eye. A deep, satisfying peaceful sleep hadn’t allowed Andy to realize that she had, since her run, completely forgotten about a certain silver-haired woman.  

Chapter Text

“Emily.” Miranda’s cool, soft voice floated through the anteroom.   

Emily jumped out from her seat and strode into the Devil’s lair, with such familiar ease, proving she’d done it a million times before. Not acknowledging the call made to the first assistant, Andy continued responding to an email, until she noticed the frosted glass door, separating the two offices, closing. Andy stared at the door in wonder, never having seen it being closed before. Rumor had it that it had only happened in extremely rare circumstances.   

At first glance, it seemed like Miranda didn’t care about what her employees did, her indifferent look fleeting over her minions with feigned disinterest and boredom. But Andy knew better, knowing Miranda always kept a meticulously watchful gaze on what went on within the walls of her Queendom. She kept a close eye on everyone, always watching over shoulders as she focused on discerning incompetent qualities in her staff. She stored what she found out as ammunition in her arsenal, ready to strike, and consequently fire, using people’s faults and failures as her weapons to make her even more acrimoniously vicious. Upon being caught or sniffed out, privacy was a non-existent concept when an unfortunate soul found themselves ensnared in the Devil’s trap. They had no choice but to accept the consequences of their deficiency and receive their relentless punishment accordingly, their downfall on display for everyone to hear or see, and to be used to set an example.   

Andy felt anxious and was concerned for the redhead. Knowing Miranda’s unrivaled unpredictability, Andy couldn’t even begin to figure out what might be happening within the walls of the inner office.    

After what seemed like an eternity but could only have been a couple of minutes, the door opened, and a seemingly hollow shell that was Emily Charlton walked out. Her green eyes wide in a daze, staring ahead but not seeing anything, her mouth slightly hanging open. Emily stopped walking when she stood in the middle of the space between their desks, right in front of her. Andy watched, waited for a minute, and when it seemed like Emily wasn’t about to snap out of her stupor anytime soon, she tried to catch her attention.   

“Emily?” Andy whispered.    

“Emily.” She tried again when the first attempt had gone unnoticed.   

The redhead blinked, life returning in her green eyes. Andy watched as a myriad of emotions flitted across Emily’s face. From confusion to bewilderment, then to disbelief. From disbelief to realization, then again to disbelief. Emily scrunched her face together and shook her head at herself and then suddenly, the most real, and biggest smile Andy had ever seen on Emily’s face lit up the entire room, leaving her completely baffled at the sight.   

“What’s going on?” Andy asked, dying to know.   

Emily turned to face her, placed her hands on her hips, and stuck out her chin in an imperial manner.   

“I’m out of here.” Emily sniffed in that typical haughty way of hers.   

“What? You’re fired?” Andy asked in shock.   

“Of course, not.” Emily rolled her eyes as she crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m moving on, naturally. She’s sending me to the art department.”   

Andy’s eyes widened as a smile crept up her face. “She did?! You are?!”   

“Obviously. You’re looking at the new junior art director.” Having said the words out loud, a look of disbelief appeared on Emily’s face once more.   

Andy grinned at her, feeling over the moon for her. “Oh, my God.  Em , that’s great! Congratulations!”  

Emily snapped out of her stupor again, a look of pure and honest joy lighting up her face. “Thank you.” She said and proceeded to giggle.   

“Andréa.”   

As if being hit by a jolt of electricity, both assistants jumped, and scurried off, as if their asses were on fire, to their respective functions. For several long moments, Andy stood in front of the glass desk, waiting for Miranda to acknowledge her as she continued to type on her laptop, pretending as if Andy didn’t even exist. Andy hated it, this feeling of being played with, being Miranda’s plaything of a minion, to make fun of for her own wicked amusement, being toyed with whenever it pleased her.   

Nevertheless, Andy used the moment to let her eyes scan over every detail of Miranda. The always flawlessly styled silver coif. Slightly frowning, perfectly shaped eyebrows. Examining the tightness around those dooming arctic blues. Fashionable reading glasses resting on an aristocratic nose, exquisitely sculpted high cheekbones, and sharply strong jawline and chin. Lingering on enticingly luscious pink lips. Lost in the moment, hazel eyes descended, caressing over a long pale neck complementing a set of beautiful chain necklaces, appreciating the smooth skin of imperial slender shoulders revealed by an off-the-shoulder beige silk blouse, and noticing the tension the muscles held. Trailing over impeccable collarbones and down, skimming over the neckline’s edges of the surplice front, and resting at the point of the V, announcing the beginning of a delectable valley.   

Miranda was without a doubt the most beautiful woman Andy had ever seen.   

Distracted by alluring round mounds, her mouth started to water and she felt her body heat up. Movement snapped Andy out of her lust-filled daze, and jerked her head back up, trying with an almighty effort to not let the dreadfulness she felt appear on her face. Miranda observed her over the rim of her glasses, her face as stoic and indecipherable as ever, but with arctic-turned-opal eyes.  

In an instant, Andy felt their familiar static tension hum between them. The last time she was enveloped by the sensations of their electrical buzzing connection, she had let it charge her, reinforce and fortify her. This time, she felt it drain her spirits, deplete her vitality as she relived the recognition that Miranda would never return her feelings.   

Miranda sat back in her chair and took off her glasses, eyes never leaving Andy’s. “Call HR, find and train a suitable replacement for you. Preferably someone less skittish than Emily, and less quirky than you. God knows we already have enough nervous and irritating conductivity going around here. I need them competent in two weeks. Have my lunch delivered at noon, that dish with the grilled bell peppers. Reschedule or cancel whatever you can, or send Nigel. I don’t care how you do it, just make sure I’m home at four.”    

“Yes, Miranda,” Andy responded automatically, but without her usual smile.  

Miranda regarded her for another moment, then stood up gracefully and walked over to the floor-to-ceiling windows behind her desk, back turned towards Andy. She crossed her arms over her middle, almost as if in a consolatory gesture, thoughtfully gazing out the window, seeming to be lost to the world.   

The somewhat subdued behavior had Andy worrying, pondering about the tension around Miranda’s eyes and shoulders. Miranda had still very much been the same scorching Dragon Lady all morning, and yet, Andy now realized that Miranda seemed tenser, stressed seemed to be more of a suitable explanation, which was something highly unusual. Miranda Priestly simply didn’t stress, always appearing to be cool and collected and if not that, irritable or resentful, but never stressed.    

Andy deliberately considered what the reasons might be for her boss’s peculiar demeanor. She thought about the on-going divorce being the cause. Maybe her soon-to-be ex-husband was being an inconvenience throughout the proceedings. Somehow, that didn’t seem to be the right puzzle piece. Miranda only seemed irritably impatient that things weren’t moving fast enough and had never shown any signs that the divorce affected her emotionally. Not even in Paris. The divorce-papers being faxed to her in the middle of Fashion Week hadn’t been the cause for Miranda’s red-rimmed eyes and defeated demeanor. No, it had been about the heartbreak of losing another father-figure for her girls, but most of all, having to subject the twins to the cruelty of the hounding press once again.  

Suddenly, the missing puzzle piece fell into place within Andy’s mind. They could be the only reason why Miranda seemed to be out of sorts today, the only people in this entire world that could affect Miranda emotionally. Growing worried herself, Andy sent out a silent prayer that nothing bad had happened to the little redheads. Andy’s heart went out to Miranda, feeling tormented about the possibility of something being wrong with the twins’ welfare. She felt the urgent need to do something, anything. Wanting, no, needing to do something to try and help Miranda in any way she could. Her mind made up, Andy ventured forward, daring to poke the Dragon and possibly invoke its wrath.  

“Miranda?” Andy asked warily.   

Miranda flinched slightly, seemingly having forgotten about Andy’s presence in her office.   

Uhm , are you o-, I mean, is there something-, anything I can do for you?” Drawing up her shoulders, Andy prepared herself for the Dragon to attack.  

But Andy wasn’t being burned by breathing fire. It was more silence that was forthcoming. After another moment, Miranda responded, her voice barely audible.   

“I-…” Miranda let out a heavy sigh, imperial slender shoulders slightly slumping. “No. That’s all, Andréa.”   

Andy hesitantly debated if she should try to push forward and reach out to Miranda in any shape or form, but chose to not try her luck any further than she’d already had done and reluctantly left the inner office.   

Sitting at her desk, Andy tried to refocus back on her work but her mind continued to drift back to thoughts about Miranda’s stress and her worry for the twins. Knowing herself with her imperative need to know all the answers and solve every problem, Andy forwent Miranda’s statement to not meddle with her personal life. She knew it was inevitable that she wouldn’t be able to let sleeping dogs lie, so Andy set out to get the answers to her questions.    

Opening a new draft on her email, Andy sent out a message to the twins.   

From:  Andrea_Sachs@runway.com    

To:  Caroline_Priestly@hotmail.com Cassidy_Priestly@hotmail.com     

Subject:  ‘Sup  twin terrors?   

Heya  kiddos!   

Been a while since I last saw you guys. How’ve you been doing?   

Whatever happened with that boy you had a crush on, Care?   

And did you get your grades for that book report you were so excited about, Cass?   

Y’know , and only if you want to, of course. I wouldn’t mind it if you guys kept me updated with what’s going on in your lives? 😀    

I may or may not be missing our secretive hushed  convos ! 😉    

Please know that you may always reach out to me if you  wanna  talk about stuff.   

Anyways,   

I hope you’re both doing ok!   

See  ya  

Andy   

***   

Andy placed a mug of hot cocoa on the coffee table and settled down on her couch with her laptop on her lap. Opening up her inbox, Andy saw she received several new emails within the timespan of leaving work to deliver the Book and getting home. Most of them were work-related, giving them not even a lingering thought as she was off the clock, and because there were only three emails that really caught her attention. One from the New York Mirror and two from the twins. Andy read the ones from the twins first.   

From:  Caroline_Priestly@hotmail.com    

To:  Andrea_Sachs@runway.com    

Subject: Re:  ‘Sup  twin terrors?   

What’s up you dork?! Don’t you have any friends to talk with? Instead of a couple of kids?   

(I didn’t mean that)   

(Or maybe I did)   

(Guess you’ll never know huh?) 😀   

I didn’t have a crush on Timothy! He’s such a loser! He’s dating Becca and she’s like, a total bitch! Can you believe that?!    

I think I like Vic now. He’s  sorta  quiet though,  kinda  like Edward.  Y’know  the vamp? He seems into old-timers. They’re cars FYI. If you didn’t know that, then never mind. But if you somehow do, what can you tell me about them?  

Aaanyway ...   

I’m fine. School’s fine.    

See  ya  later ‘gator!   

Y’know  who this is from my address.   

In case you’re too stupid to figure that out, it’s Care,  y’know , the cool twin.   

Bye!   

*  

Andy laughed as she shook her head, thinking that girl was definitely something else. Then she read Cassidy’s message.   

From:  Cassidy_Priestly@hotmail.com    

To:  Andrea_Sachs@runway.com    

Subject: Re:  ‘Sup  twin terrors?   

Hey Andy!   

Thanks for your message. It’s good to hear from you! I’ve missed our talks as well.   

I hope you’re doing alright, hope Mom’s not giving you too much trouble at work?   

I got an A+ on my paper! Ms. Wardwell said it was my best work yet! Thanks for your suggestions, they’ve been a great help! We’re doing Animal Farm next, it’s a great book so far! Have you read it?   

Did Care respond to you yet? If she told you that she’s fine, she’s not. I guess we’re not, not really.   

She and mom got into a big fight yesterday, and things have been a little tense since. Care is so angry all the time, she even lashes out at me when I’m not even doing anything. It’s so unfair! And Mom, I don’t really know. She hasn’t said much since their fight. I don’t really know what she’s thinking, but she does seem a little sad. That’s understandable, of course. Care said she’d rather go live with Dad than with her. Which is a total lie! She hates it at Dad’s, and so do I. It’s so boring and his girlfriend can’t even tell us apart, it’s been over a year! She’s really dumb.   

Anyway,   

I don’t really know what to do... I don’t want Care to be so angry all the time, but she just can’t help herself. She doesn’t understand how demanding Mom’s job is, or about her laser-focus. I miss her too, y’know, but at least she’s been home for dinner since Stephen’s left. She just doesn’t talk much,  y’know  

And I don’t want Mom to be sad, but I don’t know what I can do about that. I never even thought Mom could be sad since Care yelled at her. And now, no one’s talking, and it’s making me sad as well.    

I really wish I could see you, Andy. I really liked talking to you last time. I did what you said. Really asked her to listen to me. It worked! We sat on the couch and I told her about a kid that’s been bullying me at school. She basically said that I’m Cassidy effing Priestly, the smartest kid my age and that any other mean kid at school doesn’t matter, that I’m worth more than anyone else, except for Care. I know she loves us equally. The kid stopped bullying me however, I think she made a call to his parents. She can be really scary sometimes, y’know?!   

Anyway,   

I’m rambling.    

Hope you’re ok, Andy!   

See  ya  

Cassidy   

*  

The brunette’s heart went out to the girl. Thinking her to be too smart for her own good for an eleven-year-old, and overly sensitive, much like herself in that way. Caroline was definitely a different type of overly sensitive. She recognized a lot of Miranda in them. The cool and collectiveness in Cassidy, and the fierce and boldness in Caroline. They were like total opposites but perfectly complemented each other.    

At least now Andy knew what the reason was that had been bothering Miranda today. But now that she knew the cause, she didn’t know what she could do about it. Interfering with an issue of this magnitude went way beyond meddling in personal affairs. If Miranda were to ever find out about this, the fallout would undeniably be catastrophic. Nevertheless, Andy just couldn’t put the matter to rest. If she couldn’t help Miranda, then she could at least try and help the twins in any way she can.   

From:  Andrea_Sachs@runway.com     

To:  Cassidy_Priestly@hotmail.com   

Subject: Re: Re:  ‘Sup  twin terrors?   

Hiya Cass!   

I’m doing great, thanks for asking! Things are pretty wild at work, meaning everything's pretty much the same  ol ’, same  ol ’. Emily’s moving on though. Your mother promoted her today, which means I’m being promoted as well to the first assistant, not that it changes the job much really. But it’s still good news!  

I’m so proud of you, kiddo! For getting that A+! I’m sure your paper must’ve been superb!    

I did read Animal Farm, I think it’s a great book as well. If you ever have any questions about it, be sure to ask me, I’d be happy to help!   

Your sister did respond already. It didn’t seem like something was wrong, she didn’t mention anything about the fight. I guess she just doesn’t want to talk about it, at least not with me. Seems like she’s not the type to talk about her feelings, is she? I know it’s none of my business but I do wish that I can help her in any way.   

And that unquestionably means you too, Cass.   

Once again, you’ve been really brave in expressing your feelings, kiddo. I’m really proud of you! I truly wish there was something I could do to make you feel better. Care and your mother included, but it’s not really my place to talk to them. Not really my place to talk to you either, but I really like talking to you, I just can’t seem to help myself. I hope that’s ok?   

Have you tried talking with your sister? I know she’s pretty stubborn, much like your mother if you ask me. 😛  But  the only way to resolve anything is to talk about it. I know it’s difficult sometimes, and that you sometimes rather not do it because you might feel a little unsure about the situation. But I know you to be really brave, and exactly like your mother said, you are without a doubt the smartest kid your age! I’m sure you can figure something out with your sister.   

As for your mother, I must admit, that one’s a bit more difficult. I don’t really know her that well, outside of work anyway. Like I told you last time, she doesn’t really like me so it’s not like I can just talk to her like I can with you and Care. All I can suggest is that you talk with her as well, not necessarily about the fight, but about your day, the book you’re reading, or ask her about her day and if she scared anyone, I’m sure she’ll like that. 😀 You can try doing something nice for her as well? Make one of your drawings perhaps? I know you’ve got a real knack for art, and she loves art.   

Anyway, I’m just thinking off the top of my head here. You know your family much better than I ever will. So, just do what feels right to you. You can’t do anything wrong with just being yourself, sweetie.   

Anyway,   

I’m rambling.   

I hope things will lighten up soon! It’s been great hearing from you.    

See  ya , kiddo!   

Andy   

*  

From:  Andrea_Sachs@runway.com    

To:  Caroline_Priestly@hotmail.com    

Subject: Re: Re:  ‘Sup  twin terrors?   

Heya  Care!   

I DO have friends, thank you very much! I just like talking with you guys as well. Even if you are just a little brat.    

(I didn’t mean that)   

(Or maybe I did)   

(Guess you’ll never know huh?) 😀    

Nah, I definitely like you!   

Aren’t you a little too young to be using the b-word, Caroline? Or to be crushing on boys for that matter? Well, who am I to stop your lively spirit? Just do you, sweetie. Just make sure not to cuss around your mother. I don’t  wanna  get you into any trouble. Or be the one getting into trouble with your mother. Oh God, NO! Please, no! I’m not ready to die! Definitely don’t be doing any cussing around your mother or otherwise!   

I know they’re cars! I’m not an idiot,  y’know . I just don’t really know anything about cars, so sorry, can’t help you out with that.   

Just don’t let that Vic kid turn you into a vampire. I don’t think you want to be stuck as an eleven-year-old for your entire life now, do you? You’ll have to go to school for like, forever, y’know! Can you even imagine?! Doing homework eternally?! Gosh, that’d be horrible!   

Anyway,   

You sure you’re fine? It’s just that you’d usually go on and on and on and on if I ask you that question.    

It’s none of my business anyway, kid. I understand if you don’t  wanna  talk to me. I’m sure you have much cooler friends you can talk with. They’re lucky to have a kid like you to have as a friend!   

I don’t mean to prod, sweetie. Just know that I’m here if you need someone to talk to, alright?   

Anyway,   

I’m out, ‘bout to fall asleep on my old lumpy couch. Your mother sure wore me out at work today, any day really!    

Goodnight, kiddo!   

Andy 😛    

*  

Andy finished her last sip of her now, cold cocoa. There wasn’t anything else she could do for now. She hoped she hadn’t said anything wrong, or cause a misunderstanding. Knowing she was risking her life and limb by interfering in the twins’ life, and consequently her boss’ as well, which was a deadly territory.    

Andy yawned and stretched her back, feeling completely spent. Letting the matter of the twins and Miranda rest, for now, Andy decided to open up the last email for the day.   

Reading its contents, Andy felt her eyes widen in disbelief. It was a message from the assistant of Greg Hill, the editor-in-chief at the New York Mirror, saying they wanted to use one of her articles but that she needed to come into their offices as soon as possible to discuss the matter and sign the necessary paperwork involved.    

Suddenly, Andy felt ecstatic and overjoyed. They’d like one of her articles and were considering publishing it. Andy couldn’t believe it, feeling absolutely thrilled she sent off a response, saying that she’d call them first thing in the morning to set up a time for her to come in and discuss the matter further.    

Letting out another yawn, Andy closed down her laptop and went to prepare for bed. Once laying down, feeling utterly exhausted, she couldn’t stop the swirling thoughts in her head. They jumped from her worry about the twins to her prospects at the New York Mirror. Her emotions wouldn’t settle, feeling concerned to excited, then feeling guilty about being excited, turned to distressing, left the brunette in turmoil. She lay tossing and turning for several long moments until a fitful and restless sleep had finally claimed her.  

Chapter Text

The next day at work found Andy exchanging emails with the twins, always waiting to read and respond when Miranda was out of the office for her paranoid fear of being caught by her. The last thing Andy needed was Miranda finding out that she’s conversing with her daughters, knowing how fiercely protective Miranda was of them. Andy didn’t even want to think what the repercussions would be if she’d be caught meddling again with Miranda’s personal life. But most of all, she didn’t want to get the girls into trouble.    

Andy knew that she shouldn’t be doing this. She knew she had no right, but subconsciously denied the wrongness of it all anyway. To an outsider, it wouldn’t make sense why the assistant liked to converse with her boss’ children. They’d think their growing relationship was out of the ordinary, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong about it either. If Andy really thought about it, she’d have to admit that it was definitely highly unusual. A grown woman talking to another woman’s couple of eleven-year-olds without their mother knowing about it. Especially since they’re the children of none other than Miranda Priestly, the woman who seemed to hate her entire existence. She was merely an insignificant assistant, here to fetch and obey and not to think twice about Miranda’s wants or needs unless it was about something work-related, and to simply do what was being asked of her. That unquestionably didn’t include that she should be meddling beyond the sacred boundaries of their workplace.   

Andy just couldn’t help  herself,  it wasn’t even entirely her fault that this had come to be. It was the twins, after all, who had reached out to Andy after she’d given them the unpublished Harry Potter manuscripts. It was them who had come up to her late at night, well past their bedtime whilst she was delivering the Book and dry-cleaning. Andy had never really given it any thought as to why they suddenly decided to talk to her. Why they waited up for her, sneaked and tiptoed down the staircase, and proceeded to tell her about their day. Andy was surprised that first nights they’d come down, and definitely worried about Miranda catching them. But after the second night, Andy couldn’t deny she enjoyed listening to the twins’ shenanigans and the way they communicated, amusing her with that curious way how twins seemed to effortlessly finish each other's sentences or the way they knew exactly what the other was thinking by simply looking at each other. She loved getting to know them bit by bit, learning they each had their unique individual personalities, how they were so very different from the other that their personalities didn’t seem to match, and yet, it was obvious that they were made for each other.    

With each encounter, Andy felt herself growing rather fond and being enamored by them. So, Andy didn’t think talking with the twins was a strange occurrence. She’d like to think of them as her friends, albeit much younger, and she didn’t mind it one bit when Caroline was making fun of her, enjoying her witty and whimsical spirit, or adoring Cassidy’s gallant and considerate nature.   

She just hated the sneaking around part of it all and the feeling that she was doing something wrong. Andy also didn’t let herself acknowledge that because of the girls, she felt sort of closer to Miranda who had captured her heart. It also left her in a bit of turmoil, feeling guilty that she was doing something Miranda wouldn’t approve of and going behind her back. Nevertheless, she would risk the possibility of being banned from the Priestly women’s lives if it meant she could be of any sort of importance to them, however insignificant she was, or how short their time together would be.   

***   

From:  Cassidy_Priestly@hotmail.com     

To:  Andrea_Sachs@runway.com     

Subject: Re: Re: Re:  ‘Sup  twin terrors?   

Hi Andy!   

Congrats on your promotion! Does this mean that you’ll have to spend more time at Mom’s side? Y’know, like going to shows, meetings, and all that stuff together?    

Oh, does that mean that you won’t be bringing the Book anymore? That would suck.   

Yeah, Care doesn’t like to talk about how she feels when she’s upset. Which is sort of strange, because she loves to talk. Seriously, she never shuts up!    

She simply bottles everything inside, and then she erupts and says things she doesn’t mean, and then feels bad about herself. She’s really stubborn.    

I tried talking with her several times to try and get her to open up, but she doesn’t take me seriously when I do. I don’t know why she does that. It’s frustrating. I know she loves me, but I want her to trust me as well. Well, I know she trusts me, I think she just doesn’t think that I can help her since I’m just a kid like her. That’s understandable, I guess.   

She’s acting really strange today. She’s hardly talking, which is so weird! She isn’t complaining in classes about how boring everything is, she isn’t cussing, she didn’t even acknowledge the boy she likes when he came up to her this morning. It’s seriously weirding me out! Then she got mad at me when I tried to cheer her up. For the first time in like, forever, I can’t tell what she’s thinking. I know she’s sad about her fight with Mom but that’s it. She usually bounces right back after a fight. I hope you can figure out what’s wrong with her, Andy. I want my ridiculous sister back.   

I’ll make Mom a painting during art class today, but I don’t know what yet. Do you know what she would like that would cheer her up? I don’t want do anything related to Runway. That’s just boring. I don’t want to cheer her up with more work stuff. I want something more personal, and I don’t want to paint Patricia. I’ve done that too many times, it’s uninspiring and monotonous. (Did I spell that right?)   

I really don’t mind talking to you, Andy! I’m glad I have someone to talk with who doesn’t treat me like a child.   

And thanks for the advice! I’m off to English lit now.   

Bye!   

Cass   

 

From:  Caroline_Priestly@hotmail.com     

To:  Andrea_Sachs@runway.com     

Subject: Re: Re: Re:  ‘Sup  twin terrors?   

I’d much rather shave my head and eat broccoli before I let Vic turn me into a vampire. Cars are boring anyway and so is he! I’d much rather be an evil witch and turn everyone into stinking toads. I’d use my magic to disappear from this stupid math class and go watch movies all day. Seriously, math sucks!   

You’re such a big dork, Andy! You can’t seriously think Mom would kill you, do you? She’s all bark but no bite, y’know. But I’ll refrain from cussing around Mom. She’s mad enough. So, you don’t have to worry about getting into trouble for encouraging me to cuss. But I’ll still do it whenever it pleases me when I’m not at home! D’you know any cool cuss words? Or are you too much of a boring goody two shoes to cuss? I’m thinking that you are... Care to prove me wrong?   

The cool twin   

 

From:   Andrea_Sachs@runway.com         

To:   Cassidy_Priestly@hotmail.com       

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re:  ‘Sup  twin terrors?   

Thanks, kiddo!   

Huh, I hadn’t even thought of that. Yeah, I guess I’ll be spending more time at your mother’s side. Gosh, that’s a little scary to think about. Not that I’m scared of her, though she is pretty scary. I just hope she’ll at least try to tolerate my presence a little more. 😛    

And I guess that will eventually mean that I won’t be bringing the Book anymore. Haven’t thought of that either. But that won’t be for a while I’m guessing. Not until your mother deems the new second assistant worthy enough to take over that task.    

I’m sure going to miss seeing you guys when that’ll happen!    

Wow, a not talking Caroline, that’s definitely strange! She emailed me back though and rest assured, she’s still very much into cussing, and still complaining about how stupid math is. So, I guess that’s good right?!   

She does seem a little bitter though. She’s sort of acknowledged that your mother might still be mad at her. Nothing else, much. I wish I could talk to her, instead of doing this over email. But I don’t want you girls getting into trouble. I don’t think your mother’s gonna appreciate me talking to you guys. You know she’s very protective of you, and I certainly understand that.   

Anyway,   

I wouldn’t worry too much, sweetie. I know you’ll get your cheerful sister back in no time! It is Caroline, after all. It’s sweet that you do worry though. You’re a great sis, and a great friend as well.    

That’s a tough question,  y’know . What would your mother like that’s not related to fashion?  Gosh…  As I said, I don’t really know her that well. You’d be much better at figuring something out that she would like. You’re the creative one, after all. But I do know that what she loves most in this world is you guys! So, maybe a portrait of you and your sister? That’s all I can come up with really. Sorry, I can’t be of any more help to you with that one, Cass.   

Anyway,   

Your mom’s  gonna  be back soon! So, I  gotta  go and get some actual work done.   

Oh, and you did spell monotonous correct, good job!   

See  ya  

Andy   

 

From:   Andrea_Sachs@runway.com        

To:  Caroline_Priestly@hotmail.com      

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re:  ‘Sup  twin terrors?   

Boring boys certainly won’t do now, will they?!   

Yeah, being a witch sounds pretty neat! I’d just enchant someone to do all my work for me. And I would be able to conjure up as many donuts as I’d like! (Don’t you dare make a fat-comment on that!)   

Oh, your mom has definitely got some bite! You should see her at work! She’s made grown men cry and nearly wet their pants on multiple occasions! If she were a dog, she’d definitely be a version of a vicious furry beast like Patricia.   

And I did NOT, and I would NEVER, encourage you to cuss! Nor will I be teaching you new words for that matter. Are you trying to get me killed?! I’d much rather be a boring goody two shoes than dead, thank you very much!   

What’s this about your mom being mad? She did seem a little sad yesterday though, but certainly not mad, well, not more than usual anyway. But that’s just me, she’s always displeased with me. So, I know how it is.    

Anyway, since I don’t have any magical powers, I’d better get some work done myself.   

See  ya  

The best assistant like, ever!   

 

From:  Cassidy_Priestly@hotmail.com     

To:  Andrea_Sachs@runway.com     

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:  ‘Sup  twin terrors?   

Hi again!   

Maybe you can try and start talking to Mom whenever you’re with her? Make her see you’re not a bad person, but really, really nice. Why does she dislike you so much anyway? It doesn’t make any sense...   

You’re always saying that I’m brave for opening up and talking about my feelings. Maybe you should try to be brave too and listen to your own advice. I know you’re brave too. No one else would dare speak to us if Mom doesn’t want it, and yet, you do.   

Maybe she’ll like it. To have someone to talk with. Mom can be really funny  y’know , and you like to laugh, don’t you?    

I hope the new second assistant will be dumb then! So, you’ll have to continue to bring the Book.   

Caroline’s back to cussing again! She just called Becca, a girl in our class the b-word, and the boy she’s with the a-word. It looked like she was mad, but I knew she was really sad.    

I don’t think Mom’s still mad at her, just sad as well. They don’t know how to talk about it. They’re really dumb and stubborn if you ask me.   

I just finished my painting. That was a great idea, Andy! It was sort of weird to paint myself though. I hope she’ll like it.   

Anyway,   

I’ve got to go. School’s almost out and I have a bunch of homework to do when I get home.   

See  ya  

Cass   

***   

“Have the run-through be here in ten minutes and get me my coffee.” Miranda snarled, announcing her presence as she walked into the anteroom from her meeting with Irv.    

Surprised by Miranda’s sudden appearance, Andy jumped in her seat, nearly falling off the chair, and quickly closed the email-tab on her computer. Grabbing her phone and coat, she scurried out of the office, sent off a text to the Starbucks across the street, and proceeded to call Nigel to let him know that Miranda’s expecting them in her office nearly two hours sooner than was planned.   

When Andy returned, scorching cup in hand, everyone was in position and they were about to begin. Andy handed over the coffee to Miranda’s outstretched hand. Their fingers brushed, and Andy felt a light tingle run up her arm. She pulled back as if she’d been burned and hastily went to retrieve her notepad and pen from her desk.   

Observing as Miranda and her staff worked, she let her gaze linger on the editor. Miranda had been in and out of the office all day, barely present for more than a minute. As subtly as possible, Andy examined her boss. Miranda wore a marvelous pinstripe power suit with 4.5-inch luscious maroon Prada stilettos. No doubt as her chosen armor to intimidate Mr. Ravitz while they discussed the next issue’s budget. The blouse she wore under the jacket was a blood-red color as well, unbuttoned to show the beginning of that delectable valley again. Unconsciously, Andy licked her lips as she felt her body heat up. Miranda emanated confidence and authority, but to Andy, it screamed of sexual domination.   

Andy’s mind screeched to a halt. This was definitely not the time to be thinking of her boss in a sexual way. Not with all these people around. She shouldn’t be thinking about that, permanently! But Miranda wasn’t making it easy for her. Miranda stood, posture poised all high and mighty, but it was what she was doing with her hand that drove Andy to heated distraction. One hand holding the elbow of her arm right under her breasts, while the other hand’s middle finger was leisurely caressing back and forth from one end of a collarbone to the other.   

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for my tongue to replace that finger,  Andy feverishly mused. Her mind screeched to a sudden stop as her eyes widened.   

What the FUCK, Andy! Get yourself together, you fool!   

Andy tried with a mighty effort to focus back on the run-through, forcing her eyes to look at the clothes instead of her boss. But it was as if Miranda was a powerful magnet, pulling in hazel eyes against their will. Thankfully another distraction came that had Miranda move out of her field of vision, or so Andy thought.   

Miranda moved towards her desk to check her phone and see who was calling her directly instead of the assistants’ desk first.   

“Out,” Came the silent but threatening command.   

Andy was the last person to leave the inner office and heard Miranda answer the phone.   

“Hello,  Bobbsey . Is everything alright? How was school?”   

Before turning to sit behind her desk, Andy saw Miranda walking over the floor-to-ceiling window to be out of hearing range from the anteroom. But the movement was in vain when she heard the editor raise her voice slightly louder than Andy had ever experienced it before.   

“What?! Why? Why would y-” Miranda stopped, seemingly being cut off by one of the twins.   

“Don’t you take that tone with me, Caroline.” She lightly threatened.    

Andy couldn’t help herself, her curiosity got the better of her as she fine-tuned her hearing to listen as to what Miranda was saying. Thinking that Caroline certainly seemed to have a knack for interrupting her mother when she was speaking.   

“Care to explain to me as to why y-”    

“It certainly is my business, young lady. I have a right to  kn -”    

“Is that so? And what makes you think that I’ll-”   

“Caroline, just tell me  wh -”   

“Oh, for God’s sake, fine! But you and I are going to talk when I get-”   

“Alright, fine! Hold on.”   

“Andréa.”   

Andy’s eyes widened, eyebrows nearly sky-rocketing off her forehead, and she felt her heart sink to the pit of her stomach. A dreadful cold sweat crept up her back as she felt frozen to her seat.   

“Andréa.” Came the impatient irritation-laced voice again, making Andy jump into fearful action.   

Andy walked into the inner office and wanted nothing more in the entire world than to turn back around and flee from the building as she saw Miranda looking at her with a murderous intensity in her eyes. Miranda stretched out her arm and offered her phone to Andy, but said nothing else. She just stared at her, as if trying with her gaze to set Andy ablaze. Andy reached out with a trembling hand and took the phone from her boss, apprehensively holding it to her ear.   

“Hi, kiddo?” Andy timidly asked, averting her eyes from Miranda.   

“Hey, Andy. You got a minute? I asked Mom if we could talk. She said it’s fine.”   

Andy had absolutely no idea how Caroline could even think that Miranda would even find this remotely ‘fine’.   

Uhm , Sure. What’s up? How was school?” Andy tried to engage in casual conversation as she moved past Miranda and towards the windows, looking out over the New York skyline.   

“Boring as hell. Anyway, I don’t  wanna  talk about school. I  wanna  follow up on your email.” The girl sternly said, in a tone saying that this matter wasn’t up for discussion.   

Andy closed her eyes, hoping against hope that Caroline didn’t mean she wanted to talk about her mother with Miranda right in the same room as her. She wouldn't mind it if the ground beneath her would suddenly open up and swallow her whole.  

“Alright, sure. What do y-,” Andy  began  but was interrupted.   

Y’said  Mom seemed sad yesterday. How could you tell?” Caroline asked.  

Andy tried to sound as elusive as possible, not wanting Miranda to figure out they were talking about her. “Oh, well, I don’t know. I just could. I saw it in the little things, y’know?”    

Caroline pressed on, seemingly dead set on getting an answer. “Riiight, well. You also said she’s always mad at you. Why’s that?”    

Andy swallowed audibly as she rubbed at the back of her neck in her nervous manner. “Uhm, sh-, it, just is. I don’t really know why. Well, I used to, but now, not so much.”   

“Is she there? Is that why you’re being all weird, more so than usual?” Caroline inquired.   

Andy sighed as she pressed her hand to her forehead. “Yeah.”   

Caroline huffed. “Well, can’t you go somewhere else? I wanna talk about this. Y’said I could talk to you. So, move or something?”    

Caroline sounded frustrated, perhaps at her mother for not giving them any privacy. But what did she expect, really? For her boss to happily sit her down on the couch and bring over biscuits and tea so they could chat and gossip like this was completely normal, as if they did this every day? The girl was definitely something else. Andy turned her head around to look at Miranda, who stood several steps behind her, blocking the path towards the door. Hands on her hips and fiery eyes burning into Andy’s, seemingly intent to not let Andy out of her sight.  

Andy responded as she shook her head “No, seems like I don’t have much of a choice.”   

Caroline huffed once more. “Oh, shit, well, sucks to be you then.”   

“You should really try and tone down that vocabulary, Caroline.” Andy warned lightly, running a hand through her hair.   

Andy heard the girl sniff before she said, “Don’t wanna. I think it suits me.”    

Andy tried for a different approach on the matter. “Well, I beg to differ. But if you must, then at least try and be more creative.”   

Caroline questioned curiously. “Like how?”   

Chuckling, Andy said. “Like being inventive, be ingenious about it. You don’t just want to sound like everyone else, right? That stuff gets boring pretty easily, y’know. I know you’re a bright kid. So, what d’ya say? You  wanna  try and be original?”   

“Oh, you’re on! You, donut-hole!” Caroline challenged.   

“Oh, dear God.” Andy giggled. “What have I done?”   

Caroline giggled conspiringly. “See! You are encouraging me to cuss!”   

“I’m doing no such thing, young lady!” Andy playfully scolded. “Quite the opposite really.”   

“Yeah, right. Keep telling yourself that.” Caroline laughed humorously, and the sound made Andy’s heart light up. “Anyway, so Mom. Why is she mad at you?”   

And her heart sank again. Andy didn’t know how she could openly talk about the issue with the subject of the conversation standing right behind her. She wanted with all her heart to help Caroline and talk about her troubles but didn’t know if she could right now. Then suddenly, Cassidy’s last email came to mind. Telling her that she should just try and talk about her feelings. That she should try and be brave too, concerning Miranda. Listening to her own advice coming from the smartest kid she knew, Andy proceeded to do just that.    

“Well, I can’t say for sure, but my guess is it’s because of something I’ve done a couple of months ago.”   

Curiosity laced Caroline’s voice. “ Oeeh , what did you do?”   

With a timid voice, Andy admitted hesitantly. “I think I might’ve broken her trust in me.”  

Caroline queried knowingly. “Are you talking about you leaving her in Paris?”  

Feeling baffled, Andy asked. “Wha-? How did you-? Did she tell you about that?”    

“No, not really. She’d sort of grumbled about it to herself while we were watching a movie a while back. She was reading something from work on her phone.” Caroline explained.   

“Oh, well, that’s-, yeah. I think I really disappointed her that day.” Andy rubbed at the back of her neck again. “Why are you asking me about this, anyway?” She started to feel unsure, she didn’t really understand why they were talking about her problems with Miranda instead of Caroline’s issue.   

Now it was Caroline’s turn to admit timidly. “I-, I think I might’ve disappointed her as well.”    

Andy inquired softly. “Why do you think that?”   

Sounding upset, Caroline admitted. “I said something to her, but I didn’t mean it. She got really upset.”    

Andy nodded as she asked. “And what has that got to do with me?”   

Caroline sternly started to state the  facts. “You  said she’s mad at you. You upset her. What are you doing to make her forgive you?”   

Realization dawned on Andy. “Oh, I see now. Have you tried apologizing to her?”   

Caroline retaliated defensively. “Have you?”   

Andy warily glanced over her shoulder to look at Miranda. Noticing how Miranda’s tense posture had slightly eased up, and how the murderous intensity had vanished from her face into a look of unguarded curiosity.   

With her eyes still locked with Miranda’s, Andy confessed. “Well, yes. I told her I was sorry right after I left her.” She turned her head back around when Miranda raised an eyebrow at her.  

Sounding incredulous, Caroline fired off questions. “But she’s  still  mad at you? After  all  this time?  Why ? Why hasn’t she forgiven you yet?”   

“Unfortunately, she still is, yeah.” Andy shook her head. “But I think she did sort of strangely forgave me though. I’m not really sure. She didn’t fire me back then, so that’s something, I guess. But that doesn’t mean she trusts me. I’ve been trying though, to make her see that I’d do anything for her, uhm, I mean, so she’ll trust me again. I guess she just needs time to see that.”   

Andy paused for a moment, fighting the urge to glance at Miranda again. “But, sweetie. I’m in an entirely different position than you. I’m just her assistant.”   

Wrapping her free arm around her middle, Andy carried on. “I hold no real meaning in her life. But you’re her daughter. You mean everything to her. I’m sure that if you’d just apologize to your mother for whatever it is that you said to her, she’d forgive you in no time.”   

After a silent pause, Caroline timidly admitted. “I said I’d rather live with Dad than with her. Which isn’t true, Andy! I don’t know why I said that. I was being really childish.”   

Feeling her heart go out to Caroline, Andy tried to reassure her. “Tell her that, sweetie. I’m positive she’ll understand. She loves you, no matter what, okay? Don’t be afraid to talk to her. It wouldn’t do only her any good, but you as well. It’s necessary to express your feelings, Care. If you keep things bottled up, you’ll end up lashing out and say things you don’t mean. Do you get that?”   

Caroline sighed loudly over the phone. “Yeah, I do. You’re right. It’s not that easy for me. I’m not like Cass. She always seems to know what she’s feeling. It just takes me a little longer to figure stuff out,  y’know ?”   

Smiling tenderly, Andy placed her hand against the reflection of her face on the window and leaned her forehead against it. She completely forgot about Miranda’s presence in the room for a moment. “I get that, kiddo. But you have a wonderful, loving sister to talk to and navigate whatever it is that you might be feeling. And a very brilliant and wise mother, who loves you unconditionally and who’ll always be there for you. And you’ve got me as well, kid. I promise I’ll always be there for you, if you need help or simply want to chat, I’m here. Don’t doubt any of that, alright sweetheart?”   

“Ok. Thank you, Andy.” Caroline breathed, sounding sincerely grateful.   

Smiling, Andy said. “You’re very welcome, Caroline. Are you feeling any better now?”   

Suddenly sounding very chipper, Caroline answered. “Yeah, I am. I’ll talk to mom when she gets home. Will you tell her that for me?”   

Andy blinked as she remembered Miranda’s presence. “Of course, kiddo.”   

“Thanks again. Bye, Andy.”   

“Bye, Care.”   

Andy hung up the phone and stared down at the black screen, feeling completely lost all of a sudden. She was glad that she was able to help the troubled girl, but now that she was back in her own reality, she didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to face Miranda. But she knew she had to, she had to give the phone back, had to relay Caroline’s message, had to probably explain herself, wasn't even sure if she was still working for her.   

She knew she had no other choice but to turn around and meet her doom. So, she did, like ripping off a band-aid. Andy slowly turned around and walked towards Miranda, not daring to look her in the eye. With an unsteady hand, she held out the phone, waiting for Miranda to take it back, but to no avail. Miranda stood motionless.    

Timid voice trembling slightly, Andy spoke up. “Uhm, Caroline asked me to tell you that she’ll talk with you when you get home.”   

When not even a response was forthcoming, Andy apprehensively looked up. Miranda was looking at her, her face stoic as ever but with a questioning look in her eyes. When Miranda still made no move to take back her phone or to say something, Andy anxiously tried again.   

“Would-, would you like me to go get Nigel and the others back?”   

Miranda raised an eyebrow, then shook her head. “No.”   

Andy rubbed at the back of her neck seemingly for the  umpteenth  time. “Oh, ok. Then, I’ll just-,  y’know , go back-”   

“How did that happen?” Miranda inquired, her soft voice holding no menace in it, just mere curiosity.   

“What?” Andy asked, feeling shocked and confused.   

“You, and my girls?”   

“Oh.” Realization dawned on Andy as she explained, smiling shyly. “Well, ever since the Harry Potter, uhm, manuscript. They sort of,  y’know , started talking to me.”   

“When?” Miranda pressed on.  

“When I bring the Book.” Andy admitted, feeling concerned that she might’ve gotten the girls into trouble, she tried explaining the situation some more while she fidgeted with her fingers.   

“At first, I told them not to come down so late in the evening, and that they should go to bed, I swear I did. But they continued to come down every now and then, and I, well, I took a liking to them. Enjoyed talking with them, well, I listened, mostly. But yeah, it just sort of happened.”  

Andy looked at her pleadingly, trying to convey the sincerity she felt “So, please. Please, Miranda. Don’t be mad at them. Fire me if you must, but please don’t be mad at them. They’re good kids.”  

Miranda studied her for a long moment, her face giving nothing away as to what she might be thinking. Giving a slight nod, she took the phone from Andy’s still outstretched hand and stepped to the side, clearing Andy’s path towards the doorway.   

Still as indecipherable as ever, Miranda said. “You’re not fired, but you may go, Andréa.”   

“Y-yes, Miranda.” Andy nodded and practically ran back to her desk.   

Once sitting down, she took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, trying to purge all the stress and anxiety from her system. The whole ordeal had left Andy in an outright disarrayed state. Andy’s head started to pound when she fully started to realize what she’d just done. Feeling mortified, she couldn’t believe she’d actually voiced some of her thoughts and feelings regarding Miranda, to one of her children, for God’s sake. All while Miranda had been standing in the same room, listening to every single word she’d said.   

And what’s more, Miranda hadn’t seemed angry with her at all for speaking to her daughter the way she had, well, at least not at the end of it all. She’d been so sure that this would’ve been the breaking point, the match in the powder barrel, the final straw. The inevitable moment that she be kicked out and banned from ever laying eyes upon any of the Priestly women again. And yet, nothing happened.   

Andy felt a strange sort of déjà-vu. For a moment, she was transported back to that fateful night in Paris. Standing in the presidential suite, pleading for Miranda not to fire her, and by the end, had been feeling utterly perplexed when Miranda hadn’t so much as even breathed a single scathing remark at her.   

Once again, Miranda’s unpredictability had left her completely and utterly  dumbfoundingly  baffled.  

Chapter Text

Two weeks came and went, seemingly within the blink of an eye. It had been some of the busiest and taxing days ever for Andy. With training Avery, the new second assistant, taking over some of Emily’s workload since the redhead was spending half her time under Nigel’s wings,  customizing  herself to her new position in the art department, and doing her own abundant amount of work. It was safe to say that Andy felt like she was right on the verge of collapse, but unpretentiously, she wouldn’t let her exhaustion show. Andy carried on with her head held confidently high, mega-watt grin firmly in place, and shoulders determinedly squared, remembering the promise she had made to herself to overcome any obstacle, no matter how high, and conquer every predicament thrown on her path. She desperately clung to her resolve to reach the top, knowing it was an undertaking that she’d have to endure for years to come, but endure and succeed she would, chanting daily to herself that she can do anything, that she can do the impossible.   

The massive increase in workload wasn’t all that had changed for Andy. She’d taken notice of a modest, nearly negligible shift in her boss’s attitude towards her. To anyone on the outside looking in, it would’ve seemed like absolutely nothing had been altered between the two women. Miranda Priestly, the Devil in heels, was still very much the same mercurial, acrimoniously vicious, fire-breathing Dragon Lady. The Snow Queen still relentlessly demanded the impossible from her terror-stricken minions, piercing through their quivering souls with her freezing stare.    

So, it wasn’t a visible shift Andy noticed. It was rather something she  felt . Miranda hadn’t let up in her scathing remarks directed towards Andy, but nevertheless, she had felt the change. However ferociously callous the insults were, Andy sensed less menace in them. Whenever Miranda transfixed her with her bitterly cold, penetrating gaze, Andy sensed less contempt in them. The revelation had thrown Andy entirely for a loop. But the instance that had truly and thoroughly boggled Andy’s mind had happened that afternoon.   

The women were sitting in the backseat of the town car, going back to Runway from a showing of a new designer they had attended. When Miranda turned her head towards Andy and seemed to regard her thoughtfully, scrutinizing her from top to bottom. It had been the first time in two weeks that Miranda had looked at her since they’d started driving all over New York together. After an excruciatingly confusing silent moment, Miranda finally spoke up with a soft voice, seemingly to be dripping with profound boredom.  

“What are you wearing to the benefit on Friday?”    

With her mind explosively blown away, Andy struggled to form a coherent sentence. “Oh! Uhm, I-, well, I think-, I was-, Nig-”   

“Do get on with it, Andréa. You know how I love to be kept waiting.” Irritation had obviously taken over the boring intonation.   

Andy took a calming and collecting breath before answering once more. “Well, I don’t know yet. I was going to ask Nigel for some suggestions later today.”   

“Hm.” Miranda hummed, sounding back to being bored as she turned her head to look out the window again.   

After several moments of silence, when Andy’s heartbeat had finally returned to its normal steady pace, it sped up uncomfortably once more.   

“Wear the Versace suit, the one with the belt buckle,” Miranda said, still looking out the window.  

Andy’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Oh, uhm, ok. I mean-. Yes, Miranda.”   

It could have just been Andy’s imagination, probably from the exhaustion, and with her mind going completely haywire, but she nevertheless thought she saw the corner of Miranda’s lip twitch upward for a fraction of a second. It had almost looked as if Miranda had been suppressing a grin of sorts.   

Yep. It’s official,  Andy   mused.  I am without a doubt going completely and utterly insane.   

***   

“Nigel!”   

“WHA-?! Oh, for God’s sake. Stop doing that, Six! You’re going to put me in the hospital!” The art director snarled, only causing Andy to laugh harder.   

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Andy giggled while wiping away a tear from the corner of her eye.   

Nigel scoffed. “I know you’re not.”    

Andy wickedly grinned while patting him on the shoulder. “You’re right, I’m not. It’s just hilarious to watch you jump ten feet in the air.”   

“You just wait, dear Six. You’ll get what’s coming for you. Karma’s a vengeful bitch, you know.” He said, his gaze focusing back on two outfits hanging before him.   

Andy patiently waited for him to make his decision, knowing that he’d only acknowledge her again when he did. He nodded once and picked up one of the outfits by its hanger and proceeded to hang it on a rack at the front of the Closet, Andy following him at the heel.   

“So, what is it this time? No, let me guess. You’re here because you need my worldly desired help again to find you a dress for the benefit.” Nigel said, already looking through the extensive collection of gala dresses that were only a mere small assortment within the vast infinity of clothes hanging in the Closet.   

Andy announced hesitantly. “Uhm, well, no. Not exactly. I already know what I’m going to wear.”   

Raising a disbelieving eyebrow, Nigel asked. “You do?”    

Andy nodded as she warily said. “Yeah, it’s the uhm, the Versace suit, y’know, with the belt buckle?”    

Nigel looked at her as if she’d grown another head. “What?! Why do you want to wear  that ?”    

“I-, I-, because I do?” Andy frowned, not understanding what the big deal was.   

He incredulously inquired. “ You ? Want to wear a  suit  to the event?  That  suit?”    

Andy huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. “Yes! I don’t get what the big deal is, Nige.”    

“Have you even seen the suit?” Nigel asked, still looking as if he didn’t believe a single word she said.   

“Well, no,” Andy said while she rubbed at the back of her neck. “That’s why I’m asking you, and for your help to finish the ensemble.”  

Nigel scrutinized her for another moment. “Right, well. Come along then.”  

***   

“Nige? You forgot the blouse.” Andy said from behind the dressing screen.   

“Nige?” She asked again when he didn’t respond.   

When Andy poked her head around the screen, she saw him looking at her, arms crossed and an evil glint in his dark eyes.   

“Nige?” Andy asked once more, raising a questioning eyebrow at him.   

“There isn’t one.” Nigel deadpanned.   

Frowning, Andy shook her head. “What? What do you mean, there isn’t one?”   

A wicked grin complemented his evil eyes. “That’s exactly what I meant, dear Six.”   

Reversing their roles, Andy looked at him as if he’d grown another head. “You can’t be serious?”   

“Deadly.”   

Shaking her head in disbelief, Andy asked. “How is this blazer supposed to cover,  y’know , my assets?”   

While looking at his fingernails, Nigel explained. “It’s not. That’s the whole point.”   

Andy squeaked. “What?! You can’t be serious, Nige?!”   

“I’m not in the habit of repeating myself, dear Six.” Nigel looked at her, a serious expression on his face. “Why have you chosen this particular outfit anyway?   

“I-, I-” Andy sighed and hid behind the screen again. “I didn’t.”   

Feeling curious, Nigel inquired. “Then what made you decide to wear it?”    

Andy hesitantly began. “Well,  y’know , Miranda-”   

“Miranda?!” Nigel’s voice rose slightly. “What has she-, wait. Did  she  suggest you wear that?”   

Rubbing at the back of her neck again, she said. “Uhm, sort of? Didn’t really sound like a suggestion though.”   

Feeling slightly confused, he asked. “Miranda  told  you to wear that suit?”  

Growing annoyed by his continued incredulity, Andy sneered. “I’m not really in the habit of repeating myself, Nige.”    

Nigel threw a silk robe over the dressing screen. “Put this on, and come out of hiding.”   

When Andy appeared from behind the screen, he considered her for a long moment, holding his chin between his thumb and index finger. “What’s going between you two?” He asked sternly as he raised an eyebrow.   

Andy looked away, crossing her arms over her chest. “What? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”   

Nigel placed his hands on his hips, his tone insinuating that he was deadly serious about this. “C’mon, Six. I can tell when you’re lying to me. Right now, you’re definitely lying.”   

Andy looked him straight in the eye then. “Seriously, Nigel. I don’t know what you’re asking.”   

Nigel sighed and ran his hand over his balding head. “I’m not blind, Andy. I’ve seen things.”   

Growing defensive, she scoffed. “Congratulations, seems those glasses are really doing it for you then."   

Then, after a silent moment, Andy guiltily looked down as she asked. "What things?”  

Crossing his arms over his chest whilst raising an eyebrow again, he asked. “You’re really going to make me say it? Instead of just telling me?”    

Andy frowned as she crossed her own arms over her chest. “What things, Nigel?”   

He sighed again as she shook his head, then admitted. “I’ve seen the way you look at her, Andy.”   

Andy's eyebrows shot off heavenward. “What?”    

Narrowing his eyes at her, he sternly started to prove his point. “You’ve asked me to give you a make-over. To make you more alluring.”   

“I-”   

“For Miranda.”   

“I-”   

“And now you’re telling me she wants you to wear that suit, that rather  revealing  suit?”   

“I-”   

“While you have to be by her side and whisper names and information in her ear all evening?”   

“I-”   

“What’s going on, Andy?”   

“I don’t know!” Andy yelled. “What are you trying to say, Nigel? Because I’m really not following.”   

Nigel looked at her again for a long moment, then deadpanned. “You like her, don’t you?”   

Andy fiercely fought against the blush she felt creeping up her cheeks. “What? Don’t be ridiculous!”  

Pressing on, he asked. “How long has this been going on?”    

Becoming frustrated, Andy said. “Nothing’s going on, Nigel!”   

He rolled his eyes at her. “Oh, c’mon, Andy! Don’t take me for a fool. You were practically undressing her with your eyes a couple of weeks ago. It looked like you were actually going to combust right then and there. And don’t you dare deny it. Don’t you dare lie to me again.” Nigel heatedly accused, pointing a finger at her.  

Feeling overwhelmed and  dumbfounded, Andy  remained silent for several moments, looking down at her feet. Then, she took a deep breath and gathered up her courage.   

“I-, I’m so screwed, Nigel,” Andy admitted softly as her vision started to blur.  

He spoke softly, stepping closer and wiping the tear away with his thumb. “Oh, dear Six. C’mon, none of that now.”   

Andy looked up at him, hazel eyes conveying all the agony she felt. “I’m so screwed because I-, I don’t just like her, Nigel. I’m-, I’m...”   

“You’re in love with her.” He stated, finishing off for her.   

“I am.” Andy groaned, another tear falling down her cheek.   

“Why is this making you so sad?” Nigel asked softly, lightly rubbing circles on her upper back.   

Andy growled angrily, more at herself than at Nigel. “Because! I’ve, like a moron, fallen head over heels in love with Miranda Priestly and she fucking hates my guts, is why.”    

“I agree that you may be a bit of a moron.” Nigel chuckled sympathetically when Andy fixed a deadly stare at him. “But she doesn’t hate you, kid.”   

Angry incredulity dripped from Andy’s voice. “Of course, she does! Where have you been these last couple of months? With your head in the clouds? Have you not seen the way she’s been treating me?”   

“Of course, I have. That’s exactly the reason why I know that she doesn’t hate you.” Nigel tried to explain.   

Andy looked at him as if she’d never seen someone so stupid before. “So, you’re saying that Miranda deriding and belittling my entire existence every chance she gets, does  not  mean she hates me? In what strange world are you living in, Nige?”    

“Don’t give me that look.” Nigel placed the tip of his index finger between her eyebrows and lightly pushed forward. “For all the analyzing you’ve done of our Queen, you’ve certainly failed to notice a very important key-feature.”   

Rubbing her forehead, Andy looked up at him questioningly. “What are you talking about?”   

“Surely you must know that people don’t affect Miranda, right? Incompetence, failures, annoyances, fatuousness, and so on, affect her mood for sure, but not the people themselves committing those atrocities. Miranda couldn’t give a rat’s  arse  about other people.”   

“Okay?” Andy asked, not understanding what Nigel was hinting at.   

Nigel sighed, taking off his glasses and wiping them clean with the handkerchief from his breast pocket. “People don’t affect Miranda, and yet, you do.”   

Losing her patience at the vagueness, Andy grumbled. “Oh, just spit it out, Nigel. What are you trying to say?”   

While folding up the handkerchief, he tried to explain. “What I’m saying is that she’s been so hostile towards you  because  you affect her. For some reason, you’ve wiggled your way under her skin, and she can’t seem to shake you off, and somehow it seems like she doesn’t want to. Otherwise, she would’ve fired you in Paris. Otherwise, you wouldn’t still be here.”    

The explanation confused Andy to no end. After thinking about it for several moments, she could acknowledge the truth in his words, but still had no idea what it all meant. So, she voiced it out loud. “I’m so confused right now, Nige. What does that all mean exactly?”   

Nigel carefully ventured forward. “Well, I can’t say for sure, of course. But my guess is that the reason why she’s been so spiteful and vindictive towards you, is because you seemed to have hurt her feelings. In Paris.”   

Andy’s eyes widened, skepticism lacing her voice. “I-, I-, I hurt her? Because I left her for that one afternoon?” She shook her head. “I figured out whilst talking to Caroline that I disappointed her for sure, that I had even broken her trust in me, yeah. But hurt her, Nigel?” Andy looked up at him, searching for more answers. Nigel gazed at her as if he’d never seen anything so strange in his life.    

“What?” She asked, feeling unnerved by his stare.   

Disbelief exuded from every pore on his body. “You talked with Caroline? A-, about Miranda and-, Paris?”   

Realizing her slip, Andy explained apprehensively. “Oh! Yeah. I’ve been talking with the twins for a while.     

“Why? How?” Nigel asked in shock.   

Andy looked down as she fidgeted with her fingers. “Uhm, because they wanted to talk, and I-, didn’t mind. Sort of happened since Harry Potter.” She looked up again. “Anyway, that’s not the point here. You said I’d hurt her? Not just disappointed, but hurt her? What makes you say that?”   

Nigel thought for a moment, trying to find the right approach. “Well, if you’d simply disappointed her, she would’ve gotten over it in no time. The fact that you’ve broken her trust would’ve taken a little more time and a lot of effort building that back up on your part. Which you’ve certainly been doing like a maniac. But the fact that she’s been holding a grudge well over two months and to such a deliberate extent, implies that your decision to leave might’ve affected her on a deeper level.”   

Andy ran her hands through her hair, completely boggled by their conversation. “But why? If what you’re saying is true. Why do I affect her this way?”   

Raising an eyebrow at Andy, he said. “Use that smart little brain of yours, Andy. What does being hurt by someone entail?”   

Andy frowned as she pondered the question for a moment until a light bulb went off in her head. Her eyes widened in incredulous disbelief as she felt her body going numb. “No. That-, that can’t be-, right?” She whispered.   

Pressing on, Nigel asked again. “What does it entail, Six?”   

Shaking her head, Andy said. “It-, it would suggest that-, that she-, cares?”   

When Nigel didn’t respond, Andy looked up at him. “She-, she cares?”   

Nigel nodded. “It certainly seems that way, kid.”    

“In what way? To what extent?” Andy questioned, feeling utterly discombobulated.  

Nigel shook his head. “That’s something I cannot answer, Six. That’s something only the woman in question holds the answers to.”   

Suddenly turning curious, Andy asked. “So, why-, why does she want me to wear that suit?”  

Chuckling, Nigel grinned wickedly. “Well, it can only be worn by a certain type of woman. Women with an advantage that most of our models don’t have.”  

Raising an inquisitive eyebrow, Andy plowed on. “Okay? So, what do I have that most of the models don’t?”  

Chuckling once more, Nigel drew circles in the air with his finger, indicating Andy’s chest area.  

“Oh!” Andy squeaked, then proceeded to nod numbly as she gazed forward, letting the entire conversation sink in. It took Andy several long moments to return back to earth.   

When Nigel saw she’d returned to the land of the living, he questioned. “So, what will you do about it now that you figured it out?”   

Andy looked up at him, a mega-watt smile lighting up the entire room. “How do I keep my boobs from falling out of that suit?”   

Nigel’s laughter echoed through the entire room. “Oh, dear Six.” He chuckled, wiping a tear away. “That’s why they’ve invented double-sided tape.”  

Chapter Text

The night of the benefit found Andy waiting in the cosmetics room of the beauty department. Suffice to say, she was feeling rather restless. She still had trouble believing the revelation that was the outcome of her conversation with Nigel a couple of days ago. Andy simply couldn’t wrap her mind around it. And who could blame her really? She truly thought she understood Miranda better than most. She had worked out an entire handbook concerning the editor within her mind, predicting every wants and needs, knew every meaning behind a look or tone of voice, and yet, Andy hadn’t understood the real reason for Miranda’s contempt towards her. Granted, Miranda’s behavior resolutely contradicted even the slightest possibility that she might care, in some way or the other, for Andy. And yet it made sense, it truly didn’t, but it did.    

Nigel had been right about Miranda never being affected by people’s actions in a more profound way. Nothing could get past the walls Miranda had built around herself. Nothing could penetrate the armor she wore to protect herself from the outside world. Yet, somehow, for reasons entirely unknown, Andy had managed to wiggle herself around both. Andy couldn’t for the life of her figure out how she’d managed to do it, and what exactly it meant. She wanted to feel ecstatic about the fact that she somehow meant something, anything to Miranda, but all it had really done was confuse her even more. Thinking Miranda was an absolute enigma who worked in the most mysterious ways imaginable.    

All Andy really understood was that she needed to know, needed to find out what she meant to the older woman. Did she view her as a mere prodigy of sorts, someone she’d wanted to mentor, to shape and form before their time in Paris? After all, Miranda had acknowledged that she saw a great deal of herself in the younger woman. Or was it the fact that looking past the acrimonious nature of their relationship, Andy remarkably complimented her work ethic, making Miranda’s work run as smoothly as it never had done before. Runway certainly meant a profoundly great deal to Miranda. So, it could definitely mean she appreciated Andy’s efforts in some way, even if she didn’t acknowledge any of it.    

Maybe that was the real reason Miranda had kept her around after Paris instead of firing her. To use her in any way she could to make her life at work considerably easier. That certainly held a more believable emphasis to it. But then why, instead of working together in a more civil way, had Miranda been dead set on making her life a living hell? Surely, Miranda had to see that life at work could run a lot smoother if she worked with her assistant in a more congenial manner?    

Everything about the revelation and Miranda was contradictory, making Andy feel utterly deranged when overthinking the matter. Andy’s mind swirled with questions, and if she ever wanted to feel even a semblance of sane again, she needed answers.    

“I’m so sorry I’m late, querida! Traffic's the absolute worst today.” The beautiful Brazilian blonde grinned when she entered the room. “Are you ready to be beautified, yes? Not that you need it, being a natural beauty, of course.”   

Andy chuckled, slightly blushing. “Thanks, and you aren’t late, Serena. I’m just early. A habit that’s hard to break since I’ve been working for Miranda.”   

“Oh, I’m sure. So, where’s the dress you’re wearing?” Serena looked around, eyes landing on a garment bag hanging from a three-way mirror. “Is that it?” She asked as she walked over to it.   

Andy tried to explain. “Yeah, however, it’s not a-”    

“Oh! It’s a suit!” Serena exclaimed excitedly when she opened the garment bag. “Oh, oh my. You know this doesn’t come with a dress-shirt, yes?”    

Andy nodded as she rubbed at the back of her neck. “I do. Nigel explained I have the right-, assets, to pull it off.”    

Serena blatantly ran her eyes over Andy’s chest. “Oh, yes. You most certainly do.”   

Andy chuckled and blushed again. “Are you always this brazen when checking someone out, Serena?”   

Serena winked and grinned at her. “Only when that someone deserves to know how beautiful I think they are.”   

Andy laughed and shook her head. “You’re impossible.”   

Pressing a hand against her heart, Serena said. “Oh, you know me so well, you flatter me, querida.”   

Laughing again, Andy walked over to one of the make-up dressers. “Alright, alright. Are you going to beautify me or stand there and flirt with me all night?”   

“I most definitely would prefer the latter, but let’s not keep Miranda waiting, si?” Serena said whilst gathering what seemed to be a ton of cosmetics that probably costs more than what Andy makes in over a week.   

When Serena was finished with her hair and make-up, Andy went behind a dressing screen to put on the Versace suit. When she emerged, walking over to the three-way mirror, she gasped when she caught sight of herself. “Oh! That’s-, I-. Wow, I look-”   

“Positively ravishing? Yes, you most certainly do.” Serena declared, raking her eyes all over Andy’s form.   

“I was going to say amazing, but yeah, that works too.” Andy agreed, raking her own astonished eyes over her mirror reflection.   

Never before would Andy have thought of herself as ‘positively ravishing’, and yet, here she was. Her long wavy locks had been pulled up in a stylish updo that looked casually chic, with a couple of tendrils framing the sides of her face. Her make-up had never been done so bold before. Her hazel eyes were darkly defined by exquisitely applied smoky-eyes. The contours of her face were slightly reinforced, making her look older but sensuously stunning, and her plump lips were covered in a matt burgundy lipstick. Golden teardrop earrings adorned her ears. The black blazer looked like it had been tailored to suit her form perfectly. The golden baroque flower pattern embroidered on the lapels certainly attracted attention, consequently drawing the eyes to the vast amount of skin on display. The blazer closed with a gold silk fabric as its belt, Versace’s trademark lion head buckle closing the sides several inches above her belly button. A golden teardrop hanging from a long chain rested on top of the juncture of her breasts. The black dress pants clung to her as if a second skin, ending at the end of her calves, and 4-inch gold stilettos encased her feet, its straps circling up around her ankles.   

“My God, I never knew I could look like this.” Andy breathed.   

“Runway would certainly profit with you on its cover.” Serene chuckled. “Let me finish getting ready, then we can ride together.”   

***   

Andy felt, rather than saw, all eyes in the room turn towards her the moment she stepped through the threshold of the grand ballroom of the Plaza Hotel. After less than five minutes of attendance, a handsome young gentleman came over to strike up a conversation with her, but she was whisked away by a very dapper-looking art director before the young man could even utter a word.   

“Seriously, what was Miranda thinking? At this rate, I’ll be fending off hungry hounds all evening.” Nigel grumbled while moving them towards the bar.   

Andy laughed. “Don’t worry. I’m perfectly capable of fending them off myself, Nige.”    

Running a hand over his balding head, Nigel said. “Oh, I’m not worried about that, but about what Miranda will do to them if they so much as come within breathing distance of you.”    

Andy shook her head. “Don’t be ridiculous. The only thing she’ll care about if someone tries to talk to me is that I’d be neglecting my duty.”   

Looking over Andy’s shoulder, Nigel grinned as he announced. “Hmm, I guess we’ll see who’s right soon enough.”   

At that moment, a hush fell over the crowd, and the air in the room seemed to thicken with a compelling chilling intensity, charging the atmosphere with daunting energy. Hazel eyes were vigorously captivated by the enthralling vision of the silver-haired goddess, roaming hungrily over the seductive silhouette sheathed in a sleek, figure-skimming Valentino silk gown. Shimmering embellishments accentuated the center of the piece for a romantic finishing touch. Its halter neckline left regal shoulders and arms completely bare, and the deep blue, nearly black color contrasted beautifully with and complementing the pristine alabaster skin. Lustrous arctic blues were exquisitely highlighted, and the iconic silver forelock was neatly swiped back, making Andy’s fingers twitch to caress it back down, adoring how it usually fell over her left eye. Still, she loved the fact that the slightly different hairstyle made Miranda appear serenely softer somehow.    

Andy was unshakably convinced that there was not a single thing in the entire universe that could even remotely compare to the magnificent Venus that is Miranda Priestly.   

Starting to feel dizzy, Andy remembered she needed to breathe whilst trying to calm her thunderous heart.   

“My God, you’ve got it bad.” Nigel, who’d been watching Andy, said, then proceeded to push her forward. “Go on, you mustn't keep the Queen waiting.”   

With an almighty effort, Andy tried to gather her wits while moving towards Miranda. She needed to keep her head in the game. The only reason that she’s here was to work, to relay the names and information of people who’d dared to speak to Miranda. And she wouldn’t be able to do that if she didn’t get a handle on her thoughts and get her mind out of the gutter.    

She was halfway towards Miranda when their gazes locked. It felt like she had been struck by a bolt of lightning, blazing her entire body, inside and out, in a scorching wildfire.    

Her mind shut down entirely, bewitched by the bedeviling existence. All Andy could do was feel, and live the sensations that were taking over her body and soul.   

Miranda’s features tempestuously darkened as her inflamed arctic-turned-ocean gaze seemed to ensnare the younger woman’s enraptured soul, seizing it with her all-consuming own, in a transcendental astriction.    

The electrifying charged energy between them sparked and crackled, causing a prickling sensation to graze over her heated skin.   

The palpable tension overwhelmed Andy’s entire being but despite that, felt her body mindlessly moving forward, as if a magnetic force was pulling her in.   

Fatefully, they stood facing each other. The captivated victim’s body screamed to devour the goddess, to consume her mind, body, and soul, to worship, and to dominate her into being hers alone.   

“Andréa.” Miranda growled softly, ocean blue eyes roaming over Andy’s form.   

Andy had to vigorously force her eyes not to close as a delectable shiver ran up and down her spine.   

“Miranda.” Andy’s strained whisper nearly came out as a moan, then she took a step closer.   

“What do you think you are doing?” came Miranda’s barely controlled, heated question.   

Andy smirked devilishly and leisurely moved closer until she was a hair’s breadth away, then deviated to the side and took her place behind Miranda. Leaning in closer, lips nearly brushing the editor’s ear, she heard the woman’s surprised slight intake of breath, and she whispered fervently.  

“My job.”   

***   

A steady stream of people came over to worship Miranda, some of the more conceited types came over to glorify themselves, both seeking out her recognition and approval. The editor’s cordial grin was firmly in place, impeccably feigning interest in the conversations, nodding gracefully and commenting cordially like clockwork. Andy stood dutifully behind her, smoothly and tactfully relaying the names and information of the attendees that have deemed themselves worthy enough to breathe the same air as Miranda.   

A British, handsome gentleman, with salt and pepper hair, who went by the name of Arthur Alastair charmed his way into eliciting a dulcet laugh from Miranda, even going as far as to have the audacity to wrap his hand around her forearm, leaned in closer and whisper something in her ear.   

Andy unconsciously clenched her jaw and fists together, feeling her blood boil as she started to see red. She knew she had no right to feel this way, but to see someone else touching her Miranda unleashed something inside her that she didn’t know she possessed, clouding over her mind in a jealous rage.   

Andy felt herself being insistently swept away by an arm lacing through hers. It wasn’t until she lost sight of Miranda that she snapped out of her retention and saw Nigel leading them towards the bar.   

“C’mon, you’re in desperate need of a drink,” Nigel said.  

Andy let out a growl-like groan. “Nigel, I don’t need a-”   

“Oh, yes. You do. Seriously, you looked like you were about to break that man’s neck.” He looked at her worriedly.   

Andy scoffed. “What? I did not!”   

Shaking his head at the younger woman, he said. “Yes, you did. Funny, I didn’t peg you for the jealous type.”   

Andy huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s not funny, and I’m not.”    

Mhm . Here, drink this.” Nigel handed a glass of champagne over to her.   

Andy fell silent for a moment, then rubbed the back of her neck with her free hand. “I’ve never been the jealous type, Nige.” After taking a heartfelt sip, she shook her head at herself. “I don’t even have the right! But God, when he laid his hand on her I-, I don’t know what came over me.”   

Nigel put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed it lightly. “As I’ve said, you’ve got it bad, dear Six.”  

Finishing off his own drink, he gestured at someone to come over. “Stop worrying. I’m going to have to sweep her away now anyway. Unfortunately, we still have some braggarts to talk to.” And with that, he took his leave. A very striking Brazilian blonde taking his place.   

Serena smirked at her. “Has Nigel finally managed to release you from your duties?”   

“Something like that, yes.” Andy looked around the room. “Isn’t Emily here? I thought the two of you would be hanging out together?”   

Serena shook her head. “No, she had to stay home due to a cold she caught.”   

“Oh, that’s too bad.”   

Serena shrugged a shoulder, then winked. “Luckily I found myself with some rather pleasurable company tonight.”   

Andy laughed. “God, you’re so smooth, Serena. I don’t see how Emily hasn’t fallen head over heels for you yet.”   

Serena chuckled lightly. “Let’s not talk about Emily, shall we? C’mon let’s go somewhere else, we’re starting to hold up the line.” She took a hold of Andy’s hand and guided her towards the far end of the room where it was less crowded. Turning around to face Andy again, she leaned sideways against a pillar and smirked. “Tell me something about yourself? I don’t get the chance to see much of you at work.”   

“Yeah, I don’t get the chance to do anything except work, really.” Andy chuckled. “So, what do you want to know?”   

Serena leaned in a little closer. “Well, you said you wanted to be a writer, yes? Have you been able to get some writings done since working for Runway?”   

Grinning her mega-watt smile, Andy exuberantly said. “I did actually. I’m actually getting an article published on Monday.”  

“Wow, that’s great news, Andy! Congrats.” Serena cheered, placing her hand on Andy’s shoulder. “In what is it getting published? So, I can get myself a copy.”     

A strange sensation started to scratch at Andy’s senses, ignoring it, she said. “Thanks, it’s nothing major. Just a small piece in the New York Mirror. Let me know what you think after you read it, will you?”   

Serena winked as she slid the hand that was resting on the shoulder down to hold Andy’s wrist. “Oh, most definitely. But knowing you, I’m sure it’ll be the best article in that paper.”   

Andy had to force a laugh as the unnerving prickly sensation started to scream at her  awareness . “Don’t be ridiculous. But it’s nice of you to say so.”   

Suddenly, Andy felt the tiny hairs on the back of her neck rise up to attention. A dreadful chill crept up her spine, making her shiver. Andy didn’t have to think twice to know as to what, or who would cause such an effect on her body.   

Andy looked up apologetically. “Uhm, I’m sorry, Serena. But I have to go. I think Miranda’s waiting.”   

“How-?” Serena looked over Andy’s shoulder and nodded. “Oh, you’re right. Go. You know how she loves to be kept waiting, yes?”   

Andy turned around and let her body be magnetically pulled forward towards Miranda before she even spotted the woman. When hazel eyes locked with arctic blues once more, she didn’t feel all the electrifying and blazing sensations that had enraptured her before. This time, the freezing intensity in the arctic gaze pierced and impaired her soul, chilling her to the bone. She let out a shaky breath as her body shivered. The detrimental tension caused her mind to frost over, numbing her entire being.    

In an instant, Andy was snapped out of the freezing spell by a warm hand grabbing a hold of her forearm, making her halt her progress and jolt her mind into alertness.    

“Finally, I’ve been waiting all night for a chance to speak with you.” A dashing young man with beaming green eyes gleefully smiled at her, still holding on to her forearm.   

“I’ve been busy.” Andy tersely said, subtly trying to free her arm from his hold but the movement had the reverse effect as the grip slightly tightened.   

“I’ve noticed.” He chuckled. “My name is Nicholas Hastings, Nick for short. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you around one of these shindigs before. I would’ve remembered you.” Nick flashes his pearly white teeth.   

“I doubt that,” Andy grumbled under her breath, restraining herself not to roll her eyes at him.  

Nick leaned in closer and curiously asked. “What was that?”    

Andy shook her head. “Nothing.” She took a step back. “Listen, Nicholas-”   

“Nick” He winked, flashing his pearly whites again.   

“Nick. I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t have the time for this-”   

“Then make some.” He interrupted, then pulled lightly at her arm. “C’mon, I want to have a drink with you.”   

Andy took a firm stance, refusing to be dragged away by the young man. “Nick I-”   

“Andréa.”   

Andy’s body rigidly tensed up when she heard her name being growled from right behind her. She turned sideways as the hand on her arm wouldn’t allow her to turn completely. Her heart sped up to a near painful rhythm when her fearful eyes were captured by the murderous intensity in Miranda’s.   

“Miranda, I-” Andy began with a trembling breath but Miranda turned her deadly destructive gaze towards the young man.   

“Mr. Hastings, has no one ever taught you that accosting women is entirely disgraceful?” Miranda snarled, lethal poison dripping from her voice.   

Nick’s eyes widened tremendously and he let go of Andy’s arm as if he’d been burned. “I-”   

“No, no. That wasn’t a question.” Miranda snapped at him. “I sincerely suggest you move along now.”   

Nick didn’t need to be told twice as he practically ran off in the opposite direction as if his shoes were set on fire.   

That same fire seemed to burn a hole right through Andy’s blazer, and scorch her skin at the small of her back. Her breath caught in her throat as her entire body was set ablaze by Miranda’s touch.   

“Come along, Andréa,” Miranda commanded. Gently pushing her forward to prompt her into moving.  

Andy was blindly being guided through the ballroom towards the exit and outside. The cold, brisk night air did nothing for her burning skin. It wasn’t until she was being steered into a waiting car that the spellbinding hand left her body, releasing her from its possession.   

“To the townhouse, Roy. Then take Andréa home.”   

Miranda’s silent command invaded Andy’s mind, waking her from her trance. Blinking, she looked around, only then noticing that she sat in the backseat of Miranda’s car with the woman seated beside her, looking out the window. Miranda didn’t acknowledge her when she kept looking at her. Andy’s mind swirled with questions, yet she found that she couldn’t voice them. So, they rode in silence, but the tension Andy felt was buzzing loudly in her ears. The heavily charged energy revolving around them made the tiny hairs on her body stand up, and her heart beat thunderously against her chest.   

Andy looked over to Miranda once more, noticing the clenching of her jaw, the rigid tension in her shoulders, the heavy, yet silent breathing of her chest, and the firm clutching grasp of her hands on her lap.   

Andy realized, once again, that her existence  did  affect the editor, seemingly in a more profound way than she could’ve ever imagined. But she couldn’t figure out to what extent.    

Before Andy could even begin to think about forming questions she could voice or for a way to strike up some sort of conversation, the car slowed down, stopping at the curb in front of the townhouse. In one swift and graceful movement, Miranda exited the car before the driver even had a chance to reach for his door.    

Andy longingly watched as Miranda walked away from her, up the steps and disappearing behind the closing door.   

***   

Andy lay in her bed, staring up at the crack in the ceiling, thinking about the evening’s events. She couldn’t comprehend what had transpired between Miranda and herself, desperately wishing to understand the meaning hidden behind the arctic-turned-ocean blues.    

Her rousing feelings had been all over the place, clouding her mind in a lustful daze. Miranda had completely taken over her body by her ensnaring inflamed gaze, transcending them both to another plane. She hadn’t even noticed how the entire world had faded away the moments their eyes had locked, taking each other prisoner. The tempestuous heated tension that had consumed them seemed entirely out of this world. Andy couldn’t fathom how such an enrapturing astriction could even exist, and yet, here she was, her mind, body, and soul captured, and utterly drowning in it.   

Andy closed her eyes, vividly seeing the vision of the silver-haired goddess, every single exquisitely perfect detail, in her mind’s eye. Remembering the flaming arctic fire enveloping her, the delicious ambrosial fragrance that engulfed her when she leaned in to whisper in her ear, but most of all, her touch.    

They had touched before, fingers brushing over coffee cups, or handing over papers, but this, the hand on the small of her back, had been deliberate, purposeful, and that made all the difference.    

Never before had a touch affected her the way Miranda’s had done. It had burned her, ignited her soul, and that in combination with everything else, had ruptured her rousing desires.   

Andy felt her body heat up uncomfortably and threw off her blanket, and without thinking better of it, pulled off her sleeping shirt as well. Remembering Miranda’s blazing touch, she longed to feel those scorching hands all over her naked skin. Drowning in all that is Miranda Priestly, she let her own hands portray Miranda’s touch in her mind.    

The tips of Miranda’s fingers brushed whisperingly light, barely touching, moving leisurely over one end of her collarbone to the other, descending in a torturously glacial pace. The pressure of Miranda’s fingertips increased when trailing over the edges of her mounds, circling them with added pressure until they reached the top. Fingernails scratched the tips and edges of protruding, stiff peaks, causing her heavy breathing to turn into gasping moans. Fingertips imprisoned her nipples, pinching them into luscious stinging sensations, brimming over hotly down her hills, leaving her breasts in a delicious burning blaze.    

One of Miranda’s hands descended further, fingertips trailing up and down her abdomen. On the last descending trail, nails sunk in, leaving burning, long reddening marks, delectably awakening her skin.  

Descending further still, recreating the whispering touch, Miranda caressed up an inner thigh, passing over the juncture, then down the other, and back up. Going back and forth over the sensitive skin, continuously adding pressure with each passing. Once again, fingernails dug in, scratching back and forth, making her skin come alive, her body bursting with delirious arousal.   

Feeling hot fluids dripping down onto bedsheets, compelling slender fingers to move in, she stroke lightly over longing, quivering flesh. Excruciatingly slow strokes, spread her wetness over every single inch of pink skin. The sensitive bundle of nerves trembled, desiring, screaming for much-needed attention. Body tensing up from head to toe when the touch was finally granted, only to be unleashed again to probe at her entrance. Miranda’s other hand abandoned the ministrations on her now, overly sensitive nipples, to no longer neglect her howling clit, rubbing it in slow but firm circles.    

Andy was gasping, and her soft whimpers turned into long, straining moans when Miranda’s fingers entered her deeply. The delirious leisurely pace of both hands slowly picked up speed with each passing minute, until she was frantically reaching for desperate release. The desirable tension burned in her stomach, contracting lower and lower, tightening her core, squeezing fingers together. Her breathing stopped, trapping her breath in her chest as her entire body tensed up, head pushing down into the pillow, back arching up high off the bed, legs shaking, and toes curling into the mattress. The euphoric rupture spread throughout her body, engulfing her every cell in delicious pleasure as she moaned out her release, collapsing back onto the bed.    

Andy’s heartbeat and frantic breathing slowed down as the sweat on her body started to cool, making her reach blindly for her blanket. The closing of glowing arctic-turned-ocean blue eyes in her mind induced the young woman into a deep sated sleep.  

Chapter Text

It was the Wednesday after the benefit and the atmosphere around the two women since Monday had been brimming with an uncomfortable awkward tension. It was utterly strange to notice how Miranda seemed to avoid looking into Andy’s eyes or couldn’t seem to stand her presence for more than a couple of seconds. Demands were being curtly delivered, instantaneously followed by the long-established terse dismissal. Not even a single scathing remark had been thrown her way yet and it was making Andy feel remarkably anxious, heading straight for certifiably deranged as if she were suddenly living in the twilight zone. Andy couldn’t for the life of her figure out what could possibly be making the supposedly fearsome and fearless editor behave this way. Was it something Andy had said, or done, at the night of the benefit?   

That whole night had been a rather strange ordeal. They had barely talked, which wasn’t something out of the ordinary. They never talked at one of these events, or even at Runway, if it wasn’t something work-related. So, then what? What was making Miranda behave in such a bizarre way?  

The Dragon Lady was still very much alive and well in all her magnificently splendid, spine-chilling, horrifyingly bloodcurdling glory when it came to breathing down fire on the rest of her minions. And yet, Andy was being treated and repelled as if she were an incubus of viral plague.   

Nigel’s words suddenly kept hitting her at the forefront of her mind.   

‘Surely you must know that people don’t affect Miranda, right? Incompetence, failures, annoyances, fatuousness, and so on, affect her mood for sure, but not the people themselves committing those atrocities. Miranda couldn’t give a rat’s  arse  about other people.’   

‘People don’t affect Miranda, and yet, you do.’   

‘What I’m saying is that she’s been so hostile towards you  because  you affect her. For some reason, you’ve wiggled your way under her skin, and she can’t seem to shake you off, and somehow it seems like she doesn’t want to. Otherwise, she would’ve fired you in Paris. Otherwise, you wouldn’t still be here.’   

Andy still had trouble believing what Nigel had said that day. But she would be a blind fool now if she didn’t acknowledge that yes, Miranda seemed to behave entirely differently around her. For some unfathomable reason, Andy affected Miranda, and she needed to know why so she could fix this. This extraordinarily strange behavior would simply not do, it didn’t feel right. Andy never would have thought she’d say this, but she started to miss the cruel way Miranda had been treating her, if only for the chance to hear and look at the silver-haired woman for longer than five seconds. This wasn’t the Miranda Priestly she knew, and Andy would be damned if she didn’t try anything within her power to get her back.   

Fortunately, they were scheduled to attend a showing of a designer today, and the car ride would take them all the way across town. Plenty of time for Andy to figure out what’s been going on with Miranda. That is, if she could find the courage to actually talk to the older woman.   

This time, it was Cassidy’s words that kept hitting her at the forefront of her mind.   

‘Maybe you can try and start talking to Mom whenever you’re with her? Make her see you’re not a bad person, but really, really nice. Why does she dislike you so much anyway? It doesn’t make any sense...’   

‘You’re always saying that I’m brave for opening up and talking about my feelings. Maybe you should try to be brave too and listen to your own advice. I know you’re brave too. No one else would dare speak to us if Mom doesn’t want it, and yet, you do.’     

‘Maybe she’ll like it. To have someone to talk with. Mom can be really funny  y’know , and you like to laugh, don’t you?’    

Well, Andy was entirely sure that Miranda was not going to enjoy talking with her. The thought that she would, gave Andy a ticket straight to the loony bin. But Andy would risk it, risk her job, risk her sanity, and risk her life, to turn things back to how they were. Having the Miranda Priestly she knew back, would certainly be worth everything.   

***   

Sitting in the backseat of the town car was unequivocally an awkward experience. The tension oozing from Miranda was nearly tangible and it left Andy in all different kinds of a jittery and fidgeting mess. Andy had no clue as to how to approach Miranda without having her head bitten off. But then she thought that that would exactly be the sort of reaction she wanted to induce back into Miranda.   

So, Andy stilled her fidgeting hands, took a deep breath, and without further ado, ventured forward to pet the sleeping Dragon.   

Uhm , Miranda?”    

Came the first gentle caress, rousing the Dragon into wakefulness if the editor’s slight flinch of her shoulder was anything to go by. But the Dragon didn’t stir any further from her slumber, seemingly not deeming the endeavoring peasant appetizing enough to devour.   

Venturing forward once more, the endeavoring peasant decided if a caress wouldn’t wake the slumbering Dragon, then perhaps a scratch behind the ears would.    

“Miranda, is-, are you-, is everything alright?”   

That seemed to have woken the slumbering Dragon as it turned its menacing head towards the endeavoring peasant, its narrowing arctic blue eyes threatening, as if saying another pet, caress or scratch would unmistakably result in the peasant becoming its savory lunch.   

The courageous endeavoring peasant was determined to conquer her quest to lure the ravenous Dragon out from its lair and proceeded to offer herself up on a silver platter.   

“It’s just that-,  y’now , you’ve been-, you seemed out of sorts, or something,  y’know , this week.”   

The peasant trembled in fear by the hungry look in the Dragon’s threatening eyes, who has been thoroughly tempted to devour the delicious meal that has been presented to her. The ravenous Dragon snarled, baring its razor-sharp teeth, and lurched forward, snapping at the peasant.   

“What on earth are you gibbering on about, Andréa? Have you lost your silly, little brain on your way over to work? I am certainly nothing of the sort.”   

The courageous peasant drew up her shield and flashed her mega-watt blinding smile.   

“Oh, thank God. You had me worried there for a minute. I thought I must’ve done something wrong for you to stop insulting me all of a sudden.”   

Having been caught off guard and rendered into stupefaction by the blinding smile, the Dragon blinked, and seemed to have forgotten about its hunger, stalking forward and sniffing as if trying to smell out the ulterior motive behind the peasant’s quest.   

“You-? What are you on about, Andréa? You  cannot  be seriously telling me that you are looking to be insulted by me, are you?”   

“Well, yes. I mean, no. I mean, not entirely? It’s just that you’ve been acting really  stran -, different, towards me. And it sort of,  y’know , unsettled me a little. I couldn’t figure out what I did to, I don’t know, sort of upset you maybe? Since you’ve been trying to avoid me like I’m some plague or something. I just sort of, well, missed you, I guess? So, I thought if I would poke the  Dr -, bear, you would,  y’know , start acting normal around me again.”   

Miranda looked at her as if she had suddenly grown another monstrous head, causing Andy to giggle dumbly for never having seen such a comical look on Miranda’s face before.   

“You missed-?” Miranda shook her head slightly, steeling her features back to normal. “Yes, well. You certainly are a strange creature, Andréa. If you enjoy being insulted by me.”   

Andy giggled again. “Oh, I don’t necessarily enjoy you insulting me, Miranda. I can certainly do without all the scathing remarks. I just missed interacting with you, y’know, for you not to repel me if I were an incubus of viral plague. Because we all know just how much you love that, don’t we?” She said, flashing her mega-watt smile.   

Miranda sniffed and looked questioningly at Andy for a moment. “You want to interact? With me?”   

Andy giggled again and quipped. “Most certainly do.”   

Miranda raised an eyebrow and looked as if there was something wrong with the assistant. “Do you always giggle this much? Or have you gobbled down something alive and furry this morning?”   

Andy couldn’t help but laugh and shook her head. “Gosh, I don’t know why I’m so surprised. Cassidy did say you could be really funny sometimes.”   

Miranda narrowed her eyes. “I am most certainly not trying to be funny, Andréa.” She squinted her eyes even further into mere slits. “And what is this about Cassidy?”   

The menacing look immediately stopped Andy from giggling or laughing any further as a slight panic overtook her and she apprehensively tried to explain. “Oh! It’s just-, something Cassidy said, well, emailed a while back.”   

Miranda’s voice lowered as she threatened. “And what did she say to you, exactly?”   

Andy gulped loudly as a cold sweat started to transpire on her back. “Nothing-, just-, well-, y’know, to talk-, I guess-, uhm, with you.”   

“My daughter told you to talk,” Miranda said slowly. “With me. Why?”  

Rubbing at the back of her neck, Andy mumbled. “I-, I-, well. She'd said that maybe-, you would-, like it? To have uhm, someone to talk with?”   

Tone lacing with venomous incredulity, Miranda asked. “And my daughter thought you to be a suitable candidate to fill in such a position? Why would she think such a thing?”   

“I guess-, because-, I’m not-.” Andy sat up straighter and tried to gather up her confidence again. “Because I’m not like the others.”   

Miranda raised a questioning eyebrow. “Explain.”   

Steeling her nerves, Andy tried to look as if to reinforce the statement she was about to give. “Cassidy thinks, and I know, that I’m not like the others. Because I’m not, well, I’m not afraid of you, Miranda.”   

Miranda let out a rather undignified snort. “Well, that is a rather preposterous statement.”   

Andy frowned. “What makes you say that?”   

Miranda rolled her eyes as if that were the most idiotic question she’d ever heard. “Honestly, Andréa. You cannot have me actually believe that I do not frighten you?”   

“You don’t,” Andy stated adamantly.  

Miranda looked at her, incredulity written all over her face. “Do you think I have failed to notice how you turn into a quivering and stammering mess every five minutes? Or how you sometimes flee my office as if the Bogeyman was after you?”   

Andy shook her head. “That’s not because I’m afraid of you, Miranda. Yes, you turn me into a foolish nervous mess sometimes. But that’s only because you intimidate me.”   

“I intimidate you?” Miranda scoffed. “Is that not the same thing, Andréa?”   

“No, it’s not.” Andy sternly said. “In case you have failed to notice, Miranda. You have a rather out-of-this-world presence going on and all. You act like you’re some sort of queen or a goddess, and I’d be a fool if I didn’t see that you certainly have created your own empire, your own legacy to back that up. I’d be a fool if I didn’t think that you are someone to behold.” Andy huffed, crossing her arms over her chest and looked out of the window. “So, no. You don’t frighten me, Miranda. So, yes. You intimidate me, but only because I admire you.”   

Silence reigned over the two women once more, but Andy was left too agitated to care about any awkwardness between them.   

It wasn’t until they were at the showing that Andy realized that they were back at square one, with Miranda ignoring her once again. Which Andy thought was just ridiculous and it left her even more agitated to even remotely  care.    

So, on the drive back to Runway, Andy couldn’t be bothered to strike up a conversation again as she continued to look out of the window with her chin resting in her hand, thinking she’ll deal with this problem some other time. She certainly hadn’t expected for the disregarding Dragon to start poking the conquering peasant.   

“You are not afraid of me,” Miranda stated more than she questioned.  

Andy was still very much sulking so she didn’t respond, merely shook her head as she continued to look out the window.   

“But I intimidate you,” Miranda stated again, to which the brunette nodded once too.  

“Oh, do stop sulking, Andréa. It is rather unbecoming. You said it was because you admire me?” This time, Miranda questioned more than she stated.   

Andy rolled her eyes, still not turning around to face the older woman. “Haven’t we already gone over this?” She grumbled.   

Miranda retorted sharply. “Well, that is certainly even more difficult to believe than you not being afraid of me.”    

That made Andy’s head snap around to squint her hazel eyes at arctic blues. “That’s just ridiculous. What on earth would make you think that?” Andy snarled.   

Miranda squinted her own eyes. “Do not take that tone with me, Andréa.” She warned threateningly.   

Andy scoffed. “Or what? I’ll do whatever the heck I want. I’m not afraid of you Miranda, remember?”   

“Clearly.” Miranda huffed, then her voice dropped, menacingly soft. “Yes, you have certainly made it quite clear that you will do just whatever you seem fit.”   

Andy frowned in confusion. She suddenly couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more going on behind those words. She took a moment to think about it whilst observing Miranda but couldn’t figure it out. So, she backtracked the conversation a little to try and understand where all of this was coming from.   

“You said you don’t believe the fact that I admire you. What makes you think that, Miranda?”   

Instead of answering, Miranda rolled her eyes and turned to look outside her own window, chin resting in her hand.   

“Oh, who’s sulking now, Miranda? I thought you said it was rather unbecoming, did you not?” Andy taunted in frustration.  

Miranda’s head snapped back and arctic-turned-ocean eyes threatened vehemently as she snarled. “It would do you well to remember that I am still your boss, Andréa.”   

“Or what, Miranda?” Andy snapped. “You’ll fire me? Blacklist me? Burry me six foot under in your backyard? Go ahead and do all of that if it will please you. Or you can just tell me what I want to know?”   

“Or what?” Miranda snapped back. “You will run off again when I do not do something you want?”   

Then it clicked for the younger woman as every puzzle piece fell into place. Her eyes widened in disbelief. “That?!” She shook her head. “You’re still pissed about that?!”   

“I would tread very carefully if I were you, Andréa.” Miranda snarled menacingly.   

Andy frustratingly ran her hand through her hair. “You can’t seriously still be holding a grudge against me because I left you in Paris, can you? Miranda, it’s been three months!”   

Narrowing her eyes once more, Miranda sneered. “And you cannot seriously have me believe that you admire me after you pulled such a cowardly stunt, can you?”   

Andy groaned as she raised her eyes  heavenward . “Miranda, c’mon! I’ve apologized, haven’t I? I’ve broken my back for you since then, haven’t I? Why are you still mad about that? Why do you even care that I’ve left you in a moment of bad judgment?”   

“I do not.” Miranda snapped. “Do not flatter yourself, Andréa.”   

“Oh, bite me, Miranda.” Andy snapped back. “You can deny it all you want. It’s obvious that you do. Why else have you treated me like shit since then? Care to explain that? I thought people don’t affect you, Miranda. But clearly, I do. So, why? Why do you treat me so differently than anybody else? Even if it is you just being an extra stuck-up rudimental bitch?”   

The moment those last words left the brunette’s lips, she knew she had just made a disastrous terrible mistake. Her eyes widened in shock as she slapped a hand over her mouth.   

“Miranda, I-”   

But Andy wasn’t given a moment to apologize since they seemed to have arrived back at Runway as Miranda threw open her car door, exited the car in less than a second, and stormed off towards the Elias-Clark building, her heels clacking thunderously loud on the pavement.   

“Oh, shit. Oh, fuck.” Andy groaned and held her head in both hands, shaking it at herself. “Fuck, fuck, fuck! If she didn’t hate you before, then she certainly hates you now, Andy. God! I’m so stupid. Why couldn’t I’ve just kept my babbling mouth shut?!”    

As Andy walked her own path towards the Runway offices, at a much slower pace than Miranda had done, she continued to deride herself, not caring that people were looking at her as if she were someone who’d escaped the asylum.   

“Oh, fuck. She’s definitely going to kill me. Stab me full of holes with all the darn heels she’s got. She’s going to skin and fillet me alive, sent Patricia to shred me to pieces. Fuck, firing and blacklisting me would even be more merciful than what she’s going to do to me.”   

“What am I going to do? Getting down on my knees and beg for forgiveness isn’t going to cut it.”   

“God, she’s going to be so fucking pissed! She’s going to fucking terrorize me until I’m dead!”   

“Fuck.”   

“Good job, Andy.”  

Chapter Text

“Oh, Doug. It was horrible! I was horrible! She’s been so fucking horrible!” Andy whined when she opened the door to let her best friend in.   

“Woh, Jesus, Andy. Let a guy enter, sit down and have a beer first before you rain all your drama on me, okay?” Doug said while holding up his hands in defense.   

Andy grumbled under her breath as she led the way into her apartment. She flung open her fridge, snatched up two beer bottles, smacked the door closed making its contents rattle and jangle, tramped towards Doug who was sitting on her couch, and nearly thrust the bottle in his face.   

“Happy now?” She muttered, crashing down on the couch next to him, opened up her own bottle, and took a hefty swig from it.   

“Very.” Doug took a hearty draught himself, knowing he was going to need it if his friend’s apocalyptic mood was anything to go by. “So, what’s got your La Perlas all twisted? Well, Miranda obviously, but what’s up?”   

Andy groaned and rubbed her hand over her face. “She’s trying to kill me, Doug. For real this time! If I thought things were bad before, then I couldn’t have been more wrong in my entire life! I swear! She’s fucking terrorizing me. She’s terrorizing everyone because of me. So now, everyone is terrorizing me, because of her, because of me! But she’s next level, Doug. She’s the fucking undefeatable end-boss. And that’s like the biggest understatement ever! It’s the apocalypse I’m telling you. I’m serious, I’m not going to come out of this alive. It’s fucking hopeless now. She’s going to hate me forever. She’s going to hate me until her last breath, or mine, with the way things are going, she’ll have me buried in her backyard at the end of next week. Because I won’t survive this bloodshed for longer than that. For real, she’s butchering me, slaughtering me, mutilating me. She’s ravaging and mangling me, and she won’t stop until I’m exterminated, obliterated, decimated until I’m fucking annihilated!” She finished her crazed ranting by gulping down nearly half of her bottle.   

Doug snorted out a laugh. “Oh, don’t be so dramatic. It can’t be that bad, can it?”   

Andy looked him deadly serious in the eye. “I called her an extra stuck-up rudimental bitch.”   

Choking on his drink, Doug coughed heavily as he tried to catch his breath.   

“Exactly,” Andy muttered as she patted him on his back.  

“God, Andy!” He squeaked in a very unmanly manner. “What the hell did you do that for?! Are you trying to get yourself killed?”   

“Of course not!” Andy retorted. “It just came out! I don’t know what came over me. I was just too frustrated, y’know? I have been so frustrated for so damn long! It just sort of became too much all of a sudden. My temper got the better of me. And you know how I get when I’m tipped over. My stupid mouth takes over and I say stupid stuff before thinking. And God, I’ve said some stupid stuff, Doug. It’s a miracle she hadn’t pushed me out of the car when I did. I seriously can’t believe why she hasn’t fired me yet. Well, no. Now that I think about it. That would’ve definitely been the most merciful action she could’ve taken. She’s going to want to eat me up first until there’s almost nothing left of me, and then she’ll spit me out.”   

Shaking his head, he said. “Okay, okay. Let’s backtrack a little so I can follow. What made you say that to her?”   

Andy let out a heavy sigh, sat back against the backrest with her shoulders slumped, and took another sip from her bottle. “We were having a discussion of sorts. It basically came down to the fact that she’s still angry with me for abandoning her in Paris. So, she didn’t believe me when I told her that I admire her. And I just became angry, y’know?”   

Andy shook her head in agony and frowned. “I mean, for months, day after day, I put up with her cruel crap. How she insulted the life out of me on a daily basis. Made my life a living hell to work for her. Seriously, you should’ve heard some of the things she’d said to me, Doug. You wouldn’t believe how vicious she can be and I just took it, took it all. Accepted it so she could let it out of her system. I'm just her fucking punching bag and not once have I complained about it. When in reality, it hurts me more than anything else has done in my life. I realize now that she's throwing jab after jab, not to my gut, but straight to my heart. She's wounding me from head to toe and I had to live with her hating me for months. And I know now that it's been breaking me, Doug. I tried not to let it get to me. But little by little, she's been breaking me. But now, now that I’ve realized that I’m-, that I’m in love with her. I realize how much it's really been hurting me, especially now. And still, I never said anything about it, never fucking complained once about it. And it just became too much. I guess, y’know, I don’t really know why I couldn’t stop myself, but I guess I just wanted her to feel some of my pain too. For her to feel just a little bit of what she’s been putting me through. For her to understand that it does hurt,  y’know ?”    

She took another hefty swig from her bottle and let out a heavy breath. “But still, after all the hard work I’ve done up until now, always going that extra damn mile, breaking my back, going above and beyond. After everything I’ve done for her to help her, to make her life easier, to fucking please her, and to gain back her trust. All of that while she was being so fucking cruel to me. The fact that she simply couldn’t believe that I actually admire her means that she hasn’t appreciated any of my efforts and didn’t care about all the hurt I’ve been carrying around at all, and it just snapped something inside of me, Doug. I became so frustrated. I just couldn’t accept that she still thinks so low of me that she couldn’t believe that I think anything big of her. When the truth is that I think the world of her!”    

Andy let out in a pained groan as she ran her hand through her hair. “And the fact that she’s still angry with me, after all this damn time. I mean, come on! That’s just absurd, isn’t it? How can she possibly think that I’m still that same ignorant, naïve girl in Paris?”   

Andy stood up and started to pace back and forth in front of the couch. “Haven’t I shown her that I admire her? Haven’t I shown her that she can rely on me? Haven’t I shown her that I care? Haven’t I shown her that she can trust me? Haven’t I shown her that I’d fucking do anything and everything for her?! I mean, how blind can she be? What more can I do to make her see? Seriously, haven’t I shown her enough?!”   

Andy breathed heavily after the venting she’d just done, fighting hard against the tears she didn’t want to let fall. She still felt too angry to accept any tears of sorrow.    

A heavy silence enveloped the pair for several long moments with Andy trying to calm her raging thoughts and hurting feelings while Doug let everything sink in and pondered about all his friend had just said.    

He knew he needed to approach this with care. It was obvious that his friend was struggling and who could blame her? He had never seen her like this before. Be so consumed over someone that it was eating away at her. It was very clear to him that Miranda hadn’t only captured Andy’s heart or mind, she had captured her soul as well, and the distance between the two women was wearing heavily on Andy's shoulders. But she’d just had to go and fall in love with Miranda Priestly, out of everyone on this entire planet, she’d just had to choose the most difficult person she’d ever met. It certainly didn’t make any sense to Doug how she could’ve fallen for a person who’s been nothing but cruel and vindictive towards her. But it wasn’t his place to question such things. He just knew he needed to try and do whatever he can to help his friend.   

“Andy, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you some things first,” Doug said apprehensively.  

Andy looked at him warily but nodded. “Okay?”   

He let out a worried sigh. “Do you honestly think that there’s even the slightest possibility that she might ever care for you, y’know, on a deeper level?”   

Andy frowned. “What? Why’s that relevant?”   

“Because, babe. You want to be with her, right? Isn’t that what all of this is about? You wanting something more from her?”   

Andy looked up at the ceiling. “I-, I don’t really know.” She shook her head at herself and looked down at her feet. “No, that’s not true. I do. I do want her. I know how crazy that sounds. I’m probably reaching for the stars here. I know it doesn’t make any sense. But I can’t deny the fact that I’m in love with her. I can’t deny that I want the impossible.”   

Doug leaned forward and rested his forearms on his knees. “Do you really think it’s impossible? Do you really think that there’s not even the slightest chance that she might be capable of returning your feelings?”    

Andy narrowed her eyes at him and crossed her arms over her chest. “Why are you asking me this, Doug?”   

He sighed while he shook his head. “Because if you’re certain that there’s absolutely no chance for the two of you to be together in the way that you want it to. Then, I’m sorry for saying this, Andy, but you’ll have to let her go. You need to walk away from her.”   

“What?!” Andy snapped. “Why do I want to do that?”   

“C’mon, Andy. Because this isn’t healthy. I’m afraid that this will tear you up. If there’s no chance in hell for the two of you, then you can’t just keep obsessing over her. It will drive you nuts. She’ll break your heart. Can you honestly say that it won’t break you to be so close to her every single day, and feel the way you do when a new Mr. Priestly will eventually show up? Will you be able to handle that? And what about when your tenure will be over? You have a year left, right? You’ll have to move on then. You’ll have no choice but to leave her behind. But by then, whatever you’re feeling now, will be even worse. You’ll have been in love with her for a year. Can you honestly say that it won’t hurt you more to leave her then, instead of leaving her now?”   

Andy turned her back on him, her head hanging low as her tears finally got the better of her. She cried in silence, just letting the tears she’s been holding fall down her cheeks, needing a moment to get over the hurt his words had caused her. It was becoming a little too much for her to bear because she knew that he was right. After several minutes, she wiped the tears away, turned around, and moved to sit next to him again.   

Andy let out a heavy breath. “I don’t know if she’ll ever see me the way I want her to.” She leaned back and rested the back of her head against the couch, looking up at the ceiling again. “I just-, I need to... I have to have hope, Doug. I have to live on it.”   

She let out a humorless wry chuckle. “That’s something I learned from her. To live on hope. Because that’s all I can do, Doug. I have no choice. Because I-, I can’t do that again. I won’t be able to live with myself if I did. I can’t-, I won’t leave her again. Not like that. The guilt would eat me up inside. I can’t hurt her like that again. Because that’s what I did. I had hurt her. Apparently, it still hurts her. I don’t know why it does, but that means she cares, right? In some way or another, she did care about me leaving her. It affected her in some way. I hurt her.”   

Andy looked down at her hands on her lap and shook her head. “So, no. That’s something I cannot do. Even if she’ll never love me as I do. The fact that she somehow cares about me at all, how minuscule that feeling may be, will have to be enough for me. I’ll take all that she’s willing to give me. Even if by some miracle, all she wants is to be friends or something like that. That’ll just have to be enough for me. Because I can’t let her go."   

Andy let out another pained sigh and closed her eyes. "And if she no longer wants me in her life, then it will be up to her to leave me. In some way, it will be like the universe balancing us out, right?"   

She opened her eyes again to look back up at the ceiling. "I left her once and the only way I’ll let something separate us again, is if it will be her choice. And I’m sure, if or when that time comes, it will break me. But I’ll understand it. I’ll understand that she can’t love me. You can’t force someone to love you. So, if Miranda chooses to push me away for good, it will be okay. I’ll just have to carry her with me in my heart forever. I’ll probably never get truly over her. But I’ll be guilt-free. And she’ll live on happily without me. That’s all that matters, really. So, I can’t leave. I don’t want to have to carry that guilt with me for the rest of my life. That’s why I’ll just have to endure this next year, I guess. That’s all I can do, really.”  

Doug looked over at his friend, the sadness he felt for her was clear in his eyes. “Damn, Andy. You’re really pulling at my heartstrings here.”   

Andy let out a humorless chuckle as she wiped away a lone tear running down her cheek.   

Doug nodded sternly as if saying he'd just made up his mind. “Alright then, Andy. You had asked me, several minutes ago, if you haven’t shown her enough,  y’know , shown her in several ways that she means something to you? But that she can’t see all that you’ve done for her?”   

Andy nodded, raising an eyebrow at him.   

“Well, maybe, in Miranda’s case, it’s not only that actions speak louder than words. Maybe she needs the words too. Needs verbal confirmation. You’ve broken her trust, right? And you’re not sure if you were able to win it back yet?”   

Andy shook her head. “No, the fact that she hasn’t forgiven me for Paris yet suggests that she still doesn’t trust me. Even if I had been winning it back bit by bit, I’m pretty sure I’ve just ruined it all over again by saying what I had said to her earlier this week.”   

Doug rubbed at the back of his neck. “I’m not saying this to spite you, Andy. But I think you’ve been a little too absorbed in your own feelings till now.”  

Andy frowned at him. “What do you mean?”   

He cleared his throat and took another sip from his bottle. “Well, you have obviously been obsessing over her and trying to figure out why she acts the way she does towards you. But have you really, and I do mean really, tried to put yourself in her shoes? Well, heels in Miranda’s case.”   

Andy looked at him confused. “I don’t really get what you’re asking of me. Of course, I’ve been trying to figure out what she’s been thinking but-”   

“No.” Doug interrupted her, shaking his head. “That’s exactly it. You’ve been trying to figure out what she’s been  thinking . What you really need to understand is what she’s  feeling .”   

“Okay?” Andy prompted, still feeling very much confused.   

Doug sighed. “Miranda’s a difficult woman, right?”   

Andy chuckled humorlessly. “That’s definitely an understatement.”   

Pressing on, Doug asked. “But why do you think that is?”   

Andy thought about it for a moment. “Well, she has an incredibly demanding life because of Runway. It’s not easy to be on top. Especially if you include the press in all that. I mean, if she were a man, no one would even think to give her any of the monikers that they’ve given her. So, it’s because of how the world views her, that she sort of had to take on that business persona. Instead of letting the cruel words of the press tear her down, she used them to her own advantage. She wields all those names they call her as her weapons. They’ve made her stronger. Reinforce her in the business world. She uses them to stay ahead in the game. But I think that she got too carried away with them. Instead of only using them to strengthen her, I think they might’ve overtaken her in a way. She can no longer come out as just herself in public. Because she’s so used to acting, well, being that way.”   

“And why do you think she’s been taken over by those ‘weapons’?” Doug prompted further.   

Andy raised a questioning eyebrow at him. “Didn’t I just explain that? So, she can stay ahead in the game.”   

He nodded once. “And because she’s playing a game, means she has opponents, right? People who are trying to bring her down?”   

“Yeah? I guess.” Andy frowned.  

Doug nodded once. “So, she uses those weapons to not only strengthen her, but she needs them to protect herself as well, right?”   

Andy groaned. “C’mon, Doug. Enough of this twenty questions game. Just tell me what you’re thinking.”   

Doug sighed heavily. “Alright. You were on the right track though. Anyway. I think you’re right about the fact that she’s been taken over by all those monikers. But not just to protect herself in the business world. If it wasn’t that way, then she could just simply be herself outside of work without carrying all these weapons around.”   

He took a sip from his beer, emptying the bottle. “In case you’ve failed to notice: Miranda’s twice your age. She has two children to think about and has had two divorces. She has a lot more life experience than you. And the fact that she has twice as much life experience as you, plus the fact that she’s led a difficult life because of who she had to become thanks to Runway. Means that she’s been hurt a great deal more than you can probably imagine. It’s due to the position she holds in this world, which means she can’t simply trust people. There are always people around every corner she passes that want something from her, or want to take away from her. The fact that she’s gone through two divorces means she’s been hurt by people, and not only by her ex-husbands. The fact that it didn’t seem like she a choice but to have to become this persona to protect herself, would suggest that she has trusted before, but has been hurt because she has trusted.”   

He paused a couple of seconds, giving his friend a moment to let that sink in. When Andy nodded at him, he continued. “And now, she no longer wishes to be hurt or to be taken advantage of. So, she’s put all these walls around her. Because she might think that it’s just easier this way. She pushes everyone away because she’s not willing to trust again, she doesn’t want to be hurt again. And this, my friend, is where you come into the equation.”   

Andy nodded, let out a heavy pained sigh, and laid down on the couch with her feet resting on Doug’s lap. “Yeah, I get it now.” She groaned and rested her arm over her eyes. “God, how could I have been so blind? You’re right. Miranda doesn’t trust people. And yet, for some reason, she had decided to trust me, before Paris. And I’ve broken it. But I didn’t realize just how difficult it must’ve been for her to trust someone again. And when she had finally let herself trust someone again, that person had taken it for granted. I had taken it for granted. Probably proved to her once again that she needs her armor firmly in place. That’s why she’s been so hard on me. She had let me in once, and that must’ve been, I don’t know, scary in a way, I guess, for her to do that. But I fucked it up without even realizing how much. Of course, she wasn’t willing to let me back in after that. She probably thinks that since I did it once, I’m capable of doing it again. So, why would she take another chance on me again?”   

She dropped her arm, resting her hand on top of her chest, and frowned up at the ceiling. “And here I was, thinking that if I just worked really hard for her, that that would’ve been enough. God, that sounds so fucking dumb all of a sudden. The only thing I’ve literally done is show her that I’m a hard worker, while just simply taking all her insults. I didn’t realize I should’ve listened to the meaning behind all those insults.”  

She shook her head at herself, then carried on. “They conveyed her hurt. Hurt that I had caused her, so she was simply throwing it back at me. My God, it suddenly makes so much sense. I hit her first, right where it must’ve hurt her the most, and now she’s simply punching me back, to defend herself. But to her, it must’ve looked like she wasn’t even making a dent in me. Since I wasn’t complaining, always showing up with that stupid grin of mine, always coming back for more punches that didn’t seem to faze me. While I had taken her down with just one uppercut.”   

She groaned and took her head in both hands, palms resting on her temples. “And now, I’ve thrown her another uppercut, by calling her a bitch, while she was still hurting because of me, and I’ve probably ended the match with that. Probably blew my only chance at redemption right out the window. God, how could I have been so stupid?! So fucking blind?!”   

Within the blink of an eye, Andy sat up and glared at her friend. “Why couldn’t you have told me all of this before?”   

Doug’s eyes widened as he held his arms in front of his face as if trying to protect himself. “Hey! Don’t blame me for your stupidity! You caused this mess all on your own, thank you very much. In case you’ve failed to notice, I’m trying to help you out here.”   

Andy groaned. “Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. And I am grateful, Doug. It’s just-, I don’t know what to do. How can I fix this, make this right? She wasn’t even giving me the benefit of the doubt after I abandoned her in Paris. She’ll definitely never take a chance on me now. It’s hopeless. I’m hopeless. Fuck, Doug. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to make her see how sorry I am for all of this.”   

Doug shook his head at her again for the umpteenth time that evening. “Andy, I told you before. It is not only your actions that might give you a chance to fix this, you’re going to have to use your words too. And you’re good with them, aren’t you? You are a writer after all. You live and breathe words. You’re great at expressing yourself when you write them down. So, even if she won’t listen to you, you can at least try to write to her. At least you’ll be doing something real about it. Not just work your ass off, but really laying it all out there. So, don’t just do, Andy. You need to say it as well.”   

Andy looked at him pleadingly. “But what can I say, Doug? Apologizing, even if I do it a thousand times over, isn’t going to cut it. I’ve done it before and it didn’t work, it certainly won’t work now. And I can’t just come out and tell her that I care for her, that I love her. There’s no way in hell that she’ll believe me. She couldn’t even believe that I admire her, for God’s sake.”   

Doug shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry, can’t really help you out with that one. That has to be up to you to figure out, babe. As I said, you’re good with words. So, use them, wield them. If you really want to fix this, I’m afraid that’s the only choice you’ve got.”   

Andy sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. God, why do you have to so right all the time? It’s not fair, y’know. Seriously, you should be a shrink or something, instead of a boring accountant.”   

Doug chuckled. “Nah, this is about as much drama as I can handle.”   

“Gee, thanks.” Andy smiled, for the first time since her fight with Miranda. “I mean it, Doug. Thank you. For always being there to rely on, and for always knowing the right thing to say. I don’t know what I would do without you.”   

“Oh, you’d be a fucking mess without me.” He laughed. “But you’re welcome, babe. Anything for my bestie.”   

“Anything?” Andy grinned, a playful gleam in her eyes.   

Uhm .” Doug looked at her warily. “Yeah?”   

“Then go get me a couple more beers from the fridge. I plan on getting smashed tonight while we watch  Friends  reruns.” Andy laughed.   

“Your wish is my command, your highness. Only because it is my wish as well.” He winked and jumped up from the couch, determined to get them both, but especially his best friend, completely and utterly drunk tonight.  

Chapter Text

Andy had spent all weekend to find and combine the right words she needed to express herself. Doug was exactly right that her actions wouldn’t do her any good if she wanted Miranda to see and understand the remorse she felt for her actions in Paris, her ignorance, and for their fight last week. She needed to convey her feelings too, by wielding the power she could find in using her words.  

She had thought about expressing them verbally but promptly found out that she had too much to say to Miranda. She was also fairly certain that Miranda would not give her a chance to speak, much less listen to whatever it was she needed to say to her. So, Andy decided to do what she did best, and that was to write. She was a writer, after all.  

However, Andy did not intend for Miranda to find out about her true feelings. She didn’t want Miranda to know that she had fallen in love with her. If she were ever to begin and take such a step forward, they first and foremost needed to be on much steadier grounds at least.   

Miranda had her walls steadfastly in place. Andy was also aware that Miranda might’ve built even more and thicker walls around herself to protect herself in regards to the young assistant. Miranda had made herself into an impenetrable fortress, and vigorously wore her bulletproof armor to strengthen and defend her even more.   

Andy acknowledged that gaining Miranda’s trust back was going to be a slow and difficult undertaking, where she needed to be patient and careful throughout the process. She would have to painstakingly pry down the walls brick for brick, and meticulously remove each layer of the armor. Only then she might have the slightest chance to rebuild Miranda’s trust in her again, only then she might  have  the slightest chance to build up any semblance of a relationship between them.   

Nevertheless, Andy was determined to not only reach for the stars, but she’d set out to reach for the moon as well. And if the moon and stars wouldn’t be enough for the editor, then Andy would give her the planets as well. She would not only live on hope, but she believed in living out her dreams too.   

But even so, Andy was not expecting Miranda to return any of her feelings, she was not expecting her to love her back. The only thing Andy was fighting for right now was to receive Miranda’s forgiveness and to gain back her trust. She needed Miranda to realize that she now understood the pain she had caused her. She needed Miranda to understand how sorry she felt for having hurt her in such an ignorant way. How sorry she felt for not understanding the privilege she had been given as a gift when Miranda had decided to put her faith in the younger woman before Paris. And she needed Miranda to realize that she’ll never want to hurt her again. That she couldn’t even begin to think to try such an attempt ever again.    

No, she wanted her to know that she was prepared to become the walls Miranda needed to protect herself, and consequently her children, from the outside world. Andy wanted her to know that she was someone Miranda could rely on to defend her from oncoming threats. She wanted her to realize that she could be herself around Andy, determined to let Miranda know that if she were to ever need someone for whatever reason it might be, that Andy was permanently the person whose calls she would always take.   

So, Andy had written Miranda a letter. It would be the first baby step she’d take on the road to redemption. Andy figured out that it would not be a wise decision to give Miranda her letter directly by the hand. It was a very real possibility that Miranda would throw it in the trash without so much as deigning it a single glance. And even if by some miracle she were to open it and read it, Runway was definitely not the right setting for her to do so. Andy needed Miranda to read it when she wasn’t wearing her armor and surrounded by her walls. She needed Miranda to read and understand her words when she was simply herself and the only place Miranda might shed all of her defenses would be in the safety within the confines of her own home.   

Thus, when the Book arrived on the assistant’s desk on Monday evening when every single staff member of Runway had gone home for the day, Andy would slip the envelope between its pages, one corner slightly peeking out so Miranda would be sure to find it. It was a dangerous decision for Andy to be so bold and sort of tamper with Runway’s bible. There was a very big chance that Miranda might not appreciate such a reckless act. But Andy could not come up with a better way to do it so decided to take the risk.   

Before slipping the envelope within the Book, Andy took the letter out from its confinement one last time to read it for the umpteenth time since she finished it the evening before.   

 

Miranda,  

Last week, you had asked me why I admire you.   

Consider this me answering that question.   

When you look up the word ‘admire’ in the dictionary, you will see that they give you two definitions that resolutely apply to you.  

When I read the first definition, I could certainly understand why you didn’t want to believe me.  

Admire: to respect and approve of someone for:  

1. What they have done  
2. Their qualities   
3. Their behavior.  

Yes, my actions in Paris undeniably contradict the fact that I do, in fact, admire you.  

However,  

This brings me to my first declaration.  

You most likely thought that I do not respect you due to me turning my back on you by virtue of me not approving of what you had done to Nigel.   
By virtue of me not approving of what I had done to Emily.  

While it is true that I do not entirely approve of the way you have undermined Nigel’s career prospects. I assuredly understand that you were undoubtedly given no other choice in the matter. I would have, albeit in a different fashion, unquestionably done the same to defend and preserve something for which I had spent nearly my entire life working to obtain.   

And might I add, as passionately and invigorating as you have done to continuously improve, defend and preserve Runway to its present-day glory.  

The matter of Emily is something different altogether. That was me being rather positively naïve. I would be a fool if I did not realize that there was absolutely no way that Emily could have worked with a broken leg during the hustling and bustling pandemonium that is Paris Fashion Week. Even I could barely keep up with the pace, though I had to do it in rather ridiculously high heels.   

But if you can do it, so can I.   

That brings me to my second declaration.  

You most likely thought that I do not respect you due to me turning my back on you by virtue of me not acknowledging that we hold several qualities in common.   
Considering you said that you saw a great deal of yourself in me.    

At the time, I frankly could not believe the fact that such a consideration could have been the truth.   

While I may not have known who you were when I had first started out to work for you. I had expeditiously learned and easily acknowledged that you are a force to be reckoned with.   

You were and still are in my eyes the most accomplished, empowering, resourceful, impressive, influential, brilliant, inventive, inspiring, prevailing, emboldened, invigorating, unpredictable, and certainly the most fashionable person I have ever had the honor and privilege of knowing.   

All of these qualities and more, that you wield so beautifully and with such graceful confidence, was exactly the reason why I could not let myself believe that you saw a great deal of yourself in me. 

Because I could not recognize myself in those qualities, yet.
I did not feel confident enough in myself and in my abilities, yet.   

I was still learning so much about myself and now I can say with utmost certainty that I have become a better person today, all on behalf of you.   

It is only by virtue of you that I have recognized that I possess and wield some of these qualities that I see in you.   
It is only by virtue of you that I have grown confident in myself and in my abilities to perform.  
It is only by virtue of you that I genuinely believe that I can do anything if set my mind to it, that I can accomplish the impossible. 

Therefore, the fact that you had acknowledged that we have similar qualities, has become the most valuable and treasured compliment you could have bestowed upon me.   

And now, I strive forward in this world to be just like you.   

That brings me to my third declaration.  

You most likely thought that I do not respect you due to me turning my back on you by virtue of me disregarding the fact that I did not want to be similar to you in behavior.   

Considering you had said that everyone wants to be us. In the view of you implicating that you and I are essentially the same.  

It is true that I do not consider us to be the same. Therefore, I do not believe that there is an ‘us’ in this context. I do not believe everyone wants to be me, and I need you to understand that I do not want to be you.   

There is no one on this entire planet that could even come remotely close to being you.   
There is no one on this entire planet that could even come remotely close to doing what you can do.  

You are so magnificently unique that you are a wonder to this world.   
A mesmerizing enigma is what comes to mind when I think of you.  

You are right in thinking that everyone else wants to be you.   
However, I have a different perception of that statement.  

Since I adamantly believe that there will never be someone like you, means that all I can see is how the world lies at your feet. How you are a marvel to behold.  

The rest of us can only try to follow in your footsteps.   
The rest of us can only try to be a semblance of your brilliance.   
The rest of us can only try and learn from all that you have conquered and created.  

So no, I do not want to be you.  

I want to try and be like you.  

And that is why, Miranda, I admire you.  

A.S.  

 

When Andy let herself in the townhouse, she had expected to go over the ritual of hanging up the dry-cleaning and placing the Book on the table with the flowers in the same way she had done for over a year. Sometimes that ritual now included a quick and whispered conversation with the twins. But luck would have it that tonight, out of all the nights the ritual could’ve been disrupted from its usual traditional steps, tonight had to be that fateful night where things wouldn’t go the way Andy had expected.   

“Andréa.” Miranda’s soft voice floated down the eerily dark hallway but reached Andy’s ears as if her name had been shouted from right in front of her.   

Andy’s entire body tensed up, freezing her in place in front of the table where she had just set down the Book. Her heart instantly picked up at a frighteningly tremendous speed. She could hear her blood rushing loudly in her ears and a horrifyingly cold sweat broke out on her back. Andy couldn’t breathe as she was dreadfully paralyzed by fear. She couldn’t believe this was actually happening.    

Out of all the nights Miranda had to call her into the den, which would become without a doubt her torture chamber, it had to be the night where she had hidden a letter to the editor within the Book. The Book which Andy now had to deliver straight into Miranda’s waiting hand. Where Miranda would find the damn letter with Andy still present. With Andy still present, she would open and read the damn letter, and that damn letter will undoubtedly become her own written down death sentence. A death sentence Andy could no longer postpone.   

Forcefully willing her body to move, Andy inhaled a much-needed breath into her oxygen-deprived lungs, reached out her shaking hand to pick up the Book and grudgingly proceeded to walk down the death row to her waiting chopping block.   

When Andy reached the end of the darkened hallway, she paused for a second, hiding in the shadows next to the half-open door to Miranda’s den. She took another fortifying breath to calm her onslaught of nerves and reached out to press her palm against the door. Slowly pushing the door open, she took a step forward, paused again, and stood waiting at the threshold.    

Miranda was seated behind her wooden desk, typing on her laptop. The only light in the room came from a floor lamp standing in the corner behind Miranda, outlining her silhouette from behind, causing her front to be hidden in the shadows. The light coming from the laptop screen caused Miranda’s face to slightly gleam up in a forebodingly subdued glow. Andy could still make out the fact that she was still wearing the same formfitting, classic navy wrap dress she’d worn at work, but could not really discern any of her features.   

“Finally, there you are. Did you smack your little head against the wall? What could have possibly taken you such a glacial pace to get here from my foyer?”    

Andy winced at the condescending tone in Miranda’s voice, causing her apprehension to hand over the Book to grow to an even greater extent.   

“Why are you still standing there? Do you suddenly have a  disability  or is there something your dysfunctional brain cannot comprehend about the fact that I loathe things moving at a glacial pace?” Miranda snarled venomously, impatience dripping from her voice as she held out her hand and flicked it, gesturing for Andy to hand her the Book.   

When Andy eventually started to move, praying for a hole to open up in the ground so she could gladly fall into it, Miranda spoke up again. “I need you to cancel my breakfast with Karl and schedule an appointment with my lawyer no later than nine. Then reschedule my meeting with accounting for the afternoon. Can your little brain comprehend that, at least?”   

Andy placed the Book in the waiting hand, nodded with her eyes downcast, and whispered shakily. “Yes, Miranda.”   

The moment Miranda’s fingers curled around the Book, Andy turned around and headed straight for the door, but was halted in her progress when she only crossed half of the path.   

“Stop.” Came Miranda’s soft command.   

Andy didn’t turn around. She thought she was going to die from her misery and suffering right then and there when she heard the slight sound of papers shuffling.   

“What is this?” She heard Miranda questioning, her tone undecipherable.    

Andy found that she couldn’t respond, couldn’t do much of anything really except for wishing to die.   

“Turn around and answer me, Andréa.” Miranda sternly commanded.   

Andy breathed in a trembling breath and did as she was told. She glanced up for a second to see Miranda holding up the envelope in one of her hands. Never before, in her entire life, had Andy felt so much anxiety pulsing through her.   

Looking back down at the wooden floor, she answered timidly. “It’s a-, it’s a letter.”   

“With the way you seem to be collapsing in on yourself, I would say I am correct in assuming that this is from you?” The question wasn’t asked, Miranda was merely stating the obvious.   

Andy nodded and whispered. “Yes.”   

“This is your resignation letter?” Again, it came out more as a statement than a question.   

Andy looked up at that, suddenly hating the fact that she couldn’t see Miranda’s eyes properly in the shadows. “No! No, I’m not resigning, Miranda.”   

“Then what is this?” Miranda asked once more, waving the envelope.   

Rubbing at the back of her neck, Andy shakily responded. “It’s just a letter. An explanation, of sorts.”  

Raising an eyebrow, Miranda firmly asked. “Saying what?”   

Andy started to fidget with her finger. “I-, I just-, I can’t say. I mean, I want to. But it’s just too much. You just-, you need to read it.”   

“I do not need to do anything, Andréa.” Miranda snapped. “Tell me why I should not just throw this out with the garbage right now.”   

Andy shook her head, her eyes pleading. “I can’t stop you if that’s what you want to do with it. But I really hope you won’t.” She took a deep fortifying breath. “I just needed to express something to you. Something that I need you to hear and understand. I’m not asking you to do anything. Because ultimately, the choice is entirely yours, Miranda.”   

“Hm.” Miranda hummed softly and scrutinized her for a very long moment.   

Andy felt like she was withering away under Miranda’s stare but she couldn’t look away yet. She needed Miranda to see that this was a big deal for her. Her eyes widened slightly and felt a nervous sweat transpiring on her forehead as Miranda opened up the envelope and took out the folded piece of paper.   

Andy watched as Miranda read the first lines of the letter, then her shadowed arctic blues looked up at her for a moment, causing Andy’s heart to thunder almost painfully inside her chest.    

In one swift movement, Miranda swiveled her desk chair around, depriving Andy of seeing even a single inch from her.   

As the seconds ticked by, Andy started to feel intensely self-conscious and extremely embarrassed. Deafening silent seconds turned into excruciatingly loud minutes and she couldn’t stand the tension and humiliation any longer. She looked down at the floor and started to fidget with her hands once more. After what felt like hours had passed, Andy heard the slight movement of the chair turning back around.   

“I see.” Miranda’s voice was barely audible.    

Andy couldn’t look up, she couldn’t say anything, all she could do was wait for the verdict.   

“This is supposed to be your attempt to clear your conscience, is it not, Andréa? I must say, I have never read such an eloquent attempt at groveling before.” Miranda said, sarcasm dripping from her voice.   

Andy frowned but still felt too humiliated to look up at the older woman. She shook her head and tried to explain. “No, Miranda. I’m not trying to clear my conscience. I don’t want to do that. I accept the guilt I have to carry around for what my actions have caused. I accept that I’ve made some  serious mistakes. I’m not denying any of that. I think it is only right to feel as horrible as I do after doing what I have done, after saying what I have said.”    

Andy took a deep breath as shook her head at herself. “But I suppose you’re right in a way, about the groveling. Because, I guess, it is my way of apologizing. I know you probably don’t care or don’t want to hear this from me. And I knew that if I had just come straight out and apologize to you, that you wouldn’t have acknowledged or even cared in the slightest if I did. I needed to find a way so you might understand how serious I am about this. Even if you still don’t care, I had to at least try. Try and make you see that I do admire everything that you are, Miranda, and-”   

She let out a shaking breath, gathered her courage, and looked up at Miranda. “And that I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for what I have done, Miranda. You had privileged me to have given your trust to me, and I have been nothing but an ignorant fool. I have broken that trust. I cannot even begin to tell you how sorry I am for having done that. I will carry that guilt with me until my dying breath. But I needed to do this. Even if you don’t believe me. I had to express in words how much I regret my actions. Even if you don’t care. I had to try and make you see that I understand how wrong I was, how much at fault I was.”   

Andy looked down again and closed her eyes, not wanting her tears to make an appearance. “I’m not asking for your forgiveness. I’m not asking for you to trust me again. I know I don’t have the right to ask you such things. All I want is... All I want is to tell you how sorry I am, Miranda.”   

A heavy silence fell down upon the two women. Once again, the seconds ticked by. The seconds turning into minutes, turning seemingly into eternity. Andy had no idea how long she stood standing there, head still downcast that it was starting to hurt at the back of her neck.    

Then, she heard the sound of the desk chair rolling over the wooden floor, the sound of fabric moving, and the faint patter of bare feet moving lightly towards her.   

“Look at me, Andréa.”    

Andy heard Miranda’s command but couldn’t cooperate. She was afraid that if she looked into the eyes of the woman she loved, and seeing the disdain or ridicule in them after she had bared her heart out to her, that she would not be able to handle it. The hurt would be too much for her to deal with at this moment.   

Andy heard soft footsteps moving closer to her again until she heard them stop right in front of her. She could clearly sense Miranda now, could smell her wonderful perfume, and could hear her quiet breath in the deafening silence of the room.    

Andy jumped slightly in surprise when she felt the warm touch of a fingertip under her chin, sending a tingling sensation to course over her skin. The light pressure suggested that she should move her head up. Andy complied but still scrunched her eyes closed.    

“I said, look at me, Andréa.”     

This time, the command came out as a soft request and Andy found that she could no longer defy Miranda. She could no longer deny her anything. She slowly blinked open her eyes, locking them with the arctic-turned-opal blues of the silver-haired woman.    

Miranda was looking at her, her features showing a serious impassiveness. But her opal eyes were no longer hiding behind her mask. They were gentle, and Andy found herself getting lost in them. She had never seen them like this before, and she found she had never found them more beautiful and mesmerizing than she did now, and that along with the touch of Miranda's skin on hers, had the young woman spiraling into a heavenly trance.  

The two women looked at each other for a minute until Miranda broke the silence that had enveloped them.   

“Thank you,” Miranda whispered, then dropped the hand which finger had still been resting under Andy’s chin until now. She took a step back and inclined her head towards the door. “Go along now, Andréa.”   

Andy blinked out of her daze and smiled shyly at Miranda.    

“Yes, Miranda.” She turned around and walked towards the door. When she reached the threshold, she paused and looked over her shoulder to see Miranda still watching her.   

“Goodnight,” Andy whispered and continued on her journey back home.  

Chapter Text

Andy couldn’t remember a time when she had woken up in such high spirits as she did today. Stretching satisfyingly, she reached out to turn off her alarm clock on the bedside table before its irritating shrill buzzer would blare throughout her bedroom. Stretching her limbs out one last time, she nearly jumped out of her bed with renewed invigorating energy, feeling more than ready to start the day.    

Looking at her reflection in the bathroom mirror while brushing her teeth, Andy recalled her previous late-night interaction with Miranda. She couldn’t quite believe that her plan had worked. Even though it hadn’t panned out the way she had expected it to. Andy felt grateful for the fact the universe had given her a proper chance to apologize. She’d always known that the letter simply by itself would not have been enough for Miranda to realize how sincere her feelings were. Knowing she would have to voice a heartfelt apology sooner rather than later. She just hadn’t quite expected it to be that soon. But most of all, she couldn’t quite believe Miranda had accepted it. Andy felt her heart warm up in her chest when she recalled Miranda’s gentle eyes, tender touch, and whispered words of appreciation.    

That might’ve been Andy’s biggest accomplishment to date. Miranda didn’t show or voice her gratitude to anyone. In the whole year, Andy had worked for her, she had never heard Miranda express those exact words out loud, or shown any signs of gratefulness of anything. Except for that one time when the assistant had successfully diverted Irv’s attention from the fact that Miranda’s now soon-to-be ex-husband had shown up drunk at the Met benefit. But even then, it had only been mouthed in a fleeting moment.    

Andy wasn’t entirely sure what it really meant though. She still felt deliberately cautious, not wanting to let it go to her head. The fact that Miranda had expressed her gratitude for receiving an apology from her, didn’t mean she had forgiven her, most definitely didn’t mean she trusted her again.    

But that was okay. Andy felt content they had at least taken a tiny step in the right direction, and she would do her utmost best to continue to light their way, so Miranda would see that Andy would always be there to walk down any path or road together.    

Buzzing with eager and excited enthusiasm, Andy couldn’t wait to get to work. She couldn’t wait to see if last night’s interaction would have somehow changed anything about the dynamic between them. Wondering if Miranda would start to tolerate her presence more, or if the hostile tension would ease up a little. But even if it didn’t, Andy wouldn’t let it get to her. She understood their progress would most likely be at a glacial pace, and Andy didn’t want to rush into things. She wanted to build a sense of stability first and meticulously win the silver-haired woman over little by little. Andy would be patient for Miranda to realize that she was willing to take on any role, take on any task to make any aspect of Miranda’s life just a little bit easier. She would be patient and be whatever the older woman needed her to be, and if it only meant that for the time being, she needed her to be an exceptional assistant, then an exceptional assistant she would continue to be.   

As it turned out, that was exactly what Miranda needed her to be.   

When the editor came into Runway that morning after she met with her lawyer, it was obvious that she was in a hellish mood. Andy couldn’t help but wonder if it had anything to do with the divorce proceedings. Maybe that drunken fool of an ex-husband was making things more difficult for Miranda than they needed to be.    

Andy started to feel her blood boil when thinking of Stephen Tomlinson and the fact that he might be disrupting Miranda’s life in some way, again. She couldn’t believe how much of a shortsighted, moronic, ignorant fool he was. She couldn’t for the life of her fathom the fact that he couldn’t see that he had married the most extraordinary woman to have walked on this earth and that he was letting her go, wasn’t fighting for her. She couldn’t believe that he was incapable of appreciating the fact that a marvel as Miranda had given her faith to him, but was taking it for granted. Andy knew that if it had been her in his shoes, if by some celestial or supernatural miracle it had been her as Miranda’s significant other, she would never, not even over her dead body, let her go. She’d treasure her until her last breath and be grateful for every single second for the rest of her life that Miranda had deemed her worthy enough to hold such a meaningful place in her life.   

But for now, she’d be meaningful to Miranda in every single way that she could be.    

Andy thought ahead, as far as she could to complete every task before Miranda could even voice them. She called ahead to have everything delivered for Miranda before she even needed it. She made sure the entire staff of Runway did what they needed to do and do it with any semblance of competence that they could muster up. When she saw Miranda pinch the bridge of her nose between her fingers for longer than five seconds, she’d placed two painkillers with a chilled glass of Pellegrino on the glass desk. When she saw Miranda’s delectable pink tongue run over her bottom lip, she was calling Starbucks to have a center-of-the-sun hot no-foam latté at the ready for her to pick up and hand over to Miranda before she even knew she had wanted one. When she saw Miranda rub absentmindedly over her stomach for longer than three seconds, she had Miranda’s favorite steak delivered within fifteen minutes.   

Andy was bringing her absolute A-game, and she felt incredibly thrilled to see that she had been able to make the day as frictionless and harmonious as it had ever been. What elated her, even more, was that Miranda hadn’t made even a single scathing remark at her person yet. Miranda was still very much in a devilish mood, her demeanor still as diabolical as ever since she had come in from her lawyer’s. But she hadn’t said one cruel thing about the assistant, and that, in Andy’s book, was worth everything.    

Every single day that week had been arduously the same as that Tuesday. With Andy breaking her back to vigorously and rigorously make Miranda’s days run as perfectly smooth as she could make them, all because Miranda’s infernal mood hadn’t relented even the tiniest bit.   

When Friday had started out very much the same as the previous days, Andy started to grow worried about the fact that it still seemed like something was bothering Miranda. Andy knew it couldn’t be something work-related. Miranda seemed to be at least content with the way her empire was running, and Andy had encountered no level of incompetence that could be the cause of Miranda’s displeasure. So, there had to be something going on in Miranda’s personal life, a personal life the older woman had made perfectly crystal clear that Andy had absolutely no business with, much less to interfere with. It made Andy feel like she was running against a brick wall. She knew she was adequate enough in wielding her competence as her power to make Miranda’s work-life a great deal more uncomplicated. But she held absolutely no power when it came to helping with something of a more personal nature.    

Nevertheless, the young woman felt a fierce urge to do something, anything, but could not for the life of her figure out what she could do. She didn’t want to go up to Miranda and ask if there was something more that she could help with. Even though she desperately wanted Miranda to know that she would gladly lend an ear to her, she didn't want to hastily step over boundaries that Miranda wouldn’t feel comfortable with, knowing that building up a foundation between them wasn’t something she could rush into. Andy knew and understood that they weren’t even remotely close to that level of companionship yet.    

However, later that afternoon, as if by a curious twist of fate, had Andy feeling as if all the stars in her universe had aligned themselves through the ringing phone on her desk.   

The assistant answered with her usual automatic response. “Miranda Priestly’s office, how may I help you?”    

“Andyy!!” came the loud, chorused squeal, causing the brunette to hold the phone away from her ear.   

Andy’s mega-watt smile made an affectionate appearance. “My tiny terrors!” She laughed. “To what do I owe this squealing pleasure?”   

“Are you alone? Or is Mom around? D'you've got a second to talk? We need to ask you something. So, can we talk?”   

The rapidly fired questions had Andy laughing again. “Yes, Caroline. I’ve got some time. Your mother just left for a meeting. What’s up?”   

A much gentler voice came through the phone. “Hi, Andy! How’ve you been?” followed by a much more impatient twin voice, “Oh, bore someone else with your question, Cass. I want to get this over with.”   

Andy grinned up at the ceiling as she shook her head. “I’m fine, Cassidy. Thanks for asking. And Caroline, you have no idea how frighteningly similar to your mother you sound.”   

“Well, duhh. I learn from the best, after all.” Caroline said in a much haughtier way than an eleven-year-old should. “Anyway, d’you know what’s up with Mom? She’s been acting weird.”   

“Yeah, I’ve noticed.” Andy nodded, then shook her head. “But no, I haven’t got the slightest idea as to why.”   

That wasn’t entirely true. Andy had the suspicion that Miranda’s mood had something to do with the divorce since she’d had another meeting with her lawyer on Thursday and had returned in an even worse mood than her first meeting on Tuesday. Andy just knew that it wasn’t her place to talk about such personal affairs with Miranda’s children since she didn’t know how much in the loop their mother had kept them about the whole process, and didn’t want to say something she wasn’t supposed to.   

“We want to do something for Mom,” came Cassidy’s soft response.   

Caroline chimed in after a heartbeat. “Yeah! We wanna cheer her up. But you need to help us. I won’t take no for an answer.”    

Andy rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “Seems like I don’t have much of a choice now, do I? Alright, what can I do to help?”   

“We want to cook.”  
“We wanna cook!” Came the dual response.  

Andy asked warily. “Alright?”    

“But we can’t.”  
“But we can’t.” They chorused. Caroline’s voice continued firmly. “So, you need to help us.”  

Andy’s eyes widened slightly as she sat up in her seat. “Me?” She asked in incredulity. “Why me? Couldn’t you have asked Cara to help with something like that?”   

“Cara no longer works weekends, unless Mom needs to go somewhere.” Cassidy began and Caroline finished. “So, it’s up to you to help us.”   

Andy shook her head, feeling apprehensive about their request. “I don’t know, girls. I don’t think your mother will approve of me coming over to cook with you.”   

Caroline disregarded what Andy said in an instant. “She won’t care if it’s you. Besides, she won’t be home on Sunday until the afternoon. That’s the whole point. It needs to be a surprise.”    

Andy frowned. “But if your mother won’t be home on Sunday, isn’t Cara there to help you then?”   

Cassidy explained the situation more evidently. “Mom thinks we’re going to soccer practice on Sunday. But it got canceled because our coach got sick. We didn’t tell her. So, she thinks one of the soccer moms is going to pick us up in the morning and that we’ll spend the afternoon at a friend’s house after practice. Mom said she needed to leave at 8:30, and we usually get picked up at 8:40. So, we convinced her that we’ll just wait by ourselves for those ten minutes.”   

Andy marveled at how the twins seemed to have everything planned out. “My God, you do realize your mother is going to kill me when she finds out, right? There’s no way she’ll approve of me hijacking your day like that.”   

Caroline’s impatient voice chimed in again. “She won’t care if it’s you!”     

“What makes you say that, Care?” Andy asked.   

Caroline responded in a tone as if the answer to that question should be obvious. “Because!  Y’know , she trusts us with you.”   

Andy’s face scrunched up in disbelief. “What? That’s crazy. What makes you think such a thing?”   

“It’s true, Andy.” Cassidy chimed in, sounding as convinced about that statement as her sister. “Mom doesn’t mind it when we exchange emails or call. She also doesn’t mind it anymore when we talk when you bring the Book. But only on Fridays, so we don’t stay up too late on a school night. So, it only makes sense that she’ll be fine if you’re the one to help us because we want to surprise her and cheer her up.”   

Andy’s mind reeled for a moment. She had no idea that Miranda was no longer opposed to the fact that she had been talking to her children. Andy thought they had been sort of sneaking around whenever they talked to each other.   

“Your mother knows we’ve been talking?” Andy asked, needing more confirmation.   

Duhh ! You dorky dimwit, didn’t Cass just explain that?” Caroline began and Cassidy explained further. “We asked her some time ago if she wouldn’t be mad if we wanted to talk to you. That’s when she said she didn’t mind it if we did.”   

Caroline chimed in again, growing impatient that she still hadn’t gotten her answer yet. “So, you’ll help us, right? We can only do this with you. And we got it all planned out already. You’re not going to ruin our plans now, are you Andy?”   

Andy sighed heavily as she rubbed her forehead. “I’m so going to regret this.”   

“That’s a yes, right?!” Caroline asked gleefully.   

Andy nodded. “Yeah, sure, I’ll help you out.” She had to hold the phone away from her ear again as the twins screamed out deafening squeals of delight.   

Andy laughed as she said. “You two terrors are going to be the death of me, y’know that?”   

“Sucks to be you then.” Caroline laughed.   

Cassidy chimed in. “She meant to say thank you, Andy. As do I. So-”   

“Thank you, Andy!” The twins chorused joyfully.   

***   

At a quarter till nine on Sunday morning, the young woman rang the doorbell to the townhouse. She was fidgeting with her hands, feeling awfully anxious and concerned for her worry about the possibility that the owner of the residence would open the door. When the door flung open, all her worries were swept away as she was greeted by two beamingly grinning, excitedly bouncing little redheads.    

Andyy !!” The twins chorused as they lurched forward, each grabbing one of her hands and dragging her into the townhouse.   

Andy laughed as she let herself be pulled through the threshold. “Hiya, terrors! Couldn’t wait to start terrorizing your guest, I see.”   

Pfft , you aren’t our guest.” Caroline declared as she started tugging on the sleeve of Andy’s jacket to get it off. “You’re here as our personal assistant, you dorky dummy.”   

Cassidy poked her sister on the forehead. “What Care meant to say was, thanks for helping us out, Andy.”   

Andy chuckled. “You’re welcome. I just hope that today won’t be the last day I walk on this earth. But I really think it’s sweet of you girls to want to do something for your mother. Even if she’ll throttle me, I’m sure she’ll appreciate your efforts.”   

The twins nearly blinded her with their radiant beaming smiles.   

Andy placed her hands on each of their heads, ruffling their hair a little. “What time is your mother due to come home anyway?”   

“Around four.”  
“Around four.” The twins chorused.  

Andy’s eyebrows shot up a little. “Four?! Please tell me you don’t want to cook for six hours straight?”  

“Of course not.” Caroline huffed. “We’ve got a new game we  wanna  show you.”   

Cassidy chimed in. “And you need to help us with some of our homework.”   

Caroline continued. “And we still  gotta  clean our rooms.”   

Cassidy nodded. “Yeah, we absolutely need to finish that. Or Mom will have a fit for sure.”   

“Okay, okay, I get it.” Andy chuckled. “What do you have planned out for your mother anyway?”   

Once again, the twins lurched forward simultaneously and started dragging their assistant-for-the-day towards the kitchen as they started to excitingly chatter in a back-and-forth manner, speaking as if they were one person explaining their thoughts, whilst it was obvious that they were very much their own individuals when carrying on a conversation.   

Caroline began first with a bouncing spring in her step. “We  wanna  make her favorite lasagna!”    

Then Cassidy chimed in.  “She likes it vegetarian. With a whole bunch of veggies.”    

“And weird cheese that tastes like absolutely nothing.”   

“We also want to bake a cake!”    

“Yeah! A cake that tastes like a sugarless sponge.”   

“It has raspberry filling though.”    

“Seriously, who likes a cake without any sugar in it? That’s just ridiculous.”   

“But Mom likes it. That’s what matters.”    

“We also  gotta  set the table.  Y’know , with all that fancy- schmancy  stuff she likes.”   

“And we want to cater to her. I’m sure she’ll think it’s hilarious when Care starts acting all politely behaved and well-mannered. Gosh, that’s going to be so funny. ” Cassidy finished giggling while her sister rolled her eyes in a very Miranda-like manner.   

Andy laughed while looking down affectionately at the twins. “Sounds great, kiddos!” She placed her hands on her hips and took on a playful authoritative tone. “Alrighty then. How about we start with cleaning up your rooms, we’ll finish up your homework after that. Y’know, get all the less fun stuff out of the way. Afterward, you can show me how to play your new game. Then we’ll make the lasagna and cake. Does that sound like a plan?”   

“Yep!”  
“Yes!” The twins chorused gleefully.  

***   

The trio was cleaning up the last of Cassidy’s art supplies when Caroline trudged over to her sister’s bed and proceeded to flop down on it and whined. “This is so  boooring ! Why can’t I go play a game or something while you two finish up here?”    

Andy shook her head. “Because it is only fair to help your sister, Caroline. Cass didn’t complain when she helped you with your room. Even though it held a remarkable resemblance to a pigsty. C’mon, we’re almost finished. We’ll get this over and done with a lot faster if you help us.”   

Caroline huffed and grumbled. “Fine.”   

After several more minutes of putting stuff away to their rightful places, had Andy folding up the last of Cassidy’s t-shirts when she heard a timid voice break the silence from behind her.   

“Hey, Andy? Can I ask you something?” Cassidy asked, looking down at her toes digging into the carpet.   

“Of course, kiddo. What’s up?”   

“Well, do you know what’s been bothering Mom? She’s been sort of distant this week.”   

Andy shook her head while she laid a hand on the girl’s head. “No, sorry, Cass. I don’t. It’s not like she ever tells me anything,  y’know ?”   

Caroline walked over to them to stand beside her sister and mumbled as she crossed her arms over her chest. “She never tells us anything either. It’s always like, one day she’s fine, then the other, she’s not. We just wanna know what’s going on with her, y’know?”   

Andy crouched down in front of the twins. “I can’t say for sure, girls. But she probably just doesn’t want you to worry about anything. Some issues just aren’t meant to be discussed with children, d’you understand? I’m not saying that you wouldn’t be able to understand what’s going on, but she’s your mother. It’s her job to keep the worries away and protect you from them, alright?”   

Cassidy nodded while Caroline shook her head and scoffed. “I bet that shithead has got everything to do with it. He’s always making Mom angry and saying stupid stuff and reeks all the time. I’m glad he’s not coming back.”   

Andy poked Caroline on the forehead like her sister had done that morning. “Watch your language, Caroline. Even though I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. I’m sure your mother will be better off without him. But that’s something you no longer need to worry about, ok sweetie? He’s gone now.”   

“Yeah, I guess,” Caroline grumbled.   

Andy ruffled their heads and tried to cheer them up. “C’mon, kiddos. Let’s forget about all that and just focus on making your mother happy. Go on and get your homework. We’ll finish that off in a jiffy so we can get to the fun stuff, alright?”   

“’Kay.”  
“Okay.”   

***   

“Hey, watch it Cass! You got that berry slime on my shirt!” Caroline jeered as she flicked a handful of flour at her sister.   

“Hey! Why did you do that for, Care?! It was an accident!” Cassidy snapped back.   

“And accident, my butt! You’re just pissed cos you drew the short straw for picking out the music!” Caroline said, then stuck out her tongue at her sister.  

“I’m not!” Cassidy snarled and flicked a spoonful of raspberry filling into her sister’s hair. “And your music’s horrible! How can you stand to listen to that junk?!”   

“Why you little!” Caroline threw an egg, making it crack and splash all over her sister’s chest. “It’s not horrible, you are!”   

Cassidy scooped up a handful of cake batter and threw it, making it splatter all over Caroline.   

The twins continued to throw a variety of ingredients at each other. The loud commotion made Andy run down the hallway where she’d been using the restroom and screeched to a halt when she entered the kitchen.   

“Girls!!” Andy shrieked, then her head jerked when a glob of raspberry filling hit her on the cheek. “What the hell is going on here?!”   

“She started it!”  
“She started it!” The twins yelled angrily as they pointed fingers at each other.  

Andy looked utterly horrified when she saw what the twin terrors had done to the kitchen. “You’ve got to be fu-reaking kidding me?! Look at this mess! What happened? I was literally gone for just a minute!”   

The twins whined dramatically, still pointing fingers as they yelled over each other.   

“She got berry slime on me!”  
“She threw flour at me!”  

“Then she called my music junk!”  
“Then she called me horrible!”  

“Then she threw batter at me!”  
“Then she threw an egg at me!”  

“Alright, alright!” Andy looked up towards the heavens as she shook her head, then placed her hands on her hips. “Whatever your sister might’ve said is absolutely no reason for throwing food at each other. You could’ve hurt each other. Is that what you want?”   

Both girls looked down at the floor as they shook their heads. “No.” They chorused guiltily.   

Andy walked over and crouched in front of the twins. “It’s also not right to start pointing fingers and blaming each other when you’re both at fault for this mess. Do you get that?”   

The twins nodded as they chorused once again. “Yes, Andy.”   

“Good.” Andy laid a hand on each of their shoulders. “Then apologize to your sister.” She demanded.   

“I’m sorry, Cass.”  
“I’m sorry, Care.”  

“We’re sorry, Andy.”  
“We’re sorry, Andy.”  

Andy smiled up at them affectionately. “Thank you for saying that.” Then poked both of the girls in the ribs, making them giggle. “We’ve got to clean up the kitchen as if our butts are on fire.” She stood up from her crouching position and ruffled their heads. “C’mon, kiddos. We really need to hurry if we don’t want your mother to kill me before she gets home.”   

“Too late.” A soft voice coming from behind Andy startled them.  

Andy’s eyes widened, nearly making them fall out of their sockets, her entire body tensed up as her heart seemed to skip several beats, then proceeded to pick up at a horrifying speed.   

“Mom!” The twins chorused as they ran past the brunette towards the entryway of the kitchen.   

Andy didn’t turn around as she heard Miranda start to strictly question her children.   

“Girls. What are you doing home? Should you not be at your friend’s house? And what on earth has happened to my kitchen?”   

“It’s her fault!”  
“It’s her fault!”  

Andy turned around at that and saw that the twins were pointing at each other again. She shook her head as she placed her hands on her hips once more. “Cassidy, Caroline. What did I just say about pointing at and blaming each other?”   

The twins turned away from their mother and apologetically looked up at her.   

“That it’s not right. We’re sorry, Andy.”  
“That it’s not right. We’re sorry, Andy.”  

Andy nodded and smiled down at the girls. Then it was her turn to look apologetically as she addressed Miranda.   

“I’m really sorry about the mess, Miranda. We’re going to clean this up right this instant.” She looked down at the twins again and raised a playful eyebrow. “Aren’t we girls?”   

“Yes, Andy.”  
“Yes, Andy.”  

Miranda spoke up then as she nodded curtly. “Agreed. But first, which one of your guilty party is going to explain to me as to what is going on here exactly?”   

The twins turned around to face their mother once more and continued to explain the situation in their back-and-forth manner. Cassidy began first this time.   

“We’re really sorry about the mess, Mom!”   

“But we wanted to surprise you.”   

“So, we asked Andy to watch over us.”   

“So, we could make dinner and bake a cake.”    

“We also did our homework!”   

“And we also cleaned our rooms!”    

“We wanted to make you happy.”   

“So, please don’t be mad at us.” They chorused as they finished, looking up at their mother with big pleading eyes.  

Miranda looked down at them for a long, tense moment, then said. “That still does not explain why the both of you are at home.”   

Caroline began first this time.   

“Soccer got canceled. Coach's sick.”   

“And you have been sort of distant this week.”    

“So, we wanted to do something to cheer you up in case you were feeling sad.”   

“We asked Andy to help us. Please don’t be mad at her either.”    

“Yeah, we practically forced her to help us.”   

“But only because we really wanted to do this.”    

“We made your favorite lasagna. With the weird cheese and loads of veggies.”   

“We also wanted to make your favorite cake.”    

“The one with absolutely no sugar at all, but with raspberries.”   

“But that sort of ended up in a mess.”   

“Yeah, sorry. Again.”   

Miranda continued to look down at her daughters for another excruciatingly long moment. “Hm.” She hummed, then she looked up at Andy for another tense moment, still as unreadable as ever.    

Andy gazed back with a worried look on her face as she remorsefully shrugged up her shoulders and mouthed. ‘Sorry.’   

Miranda sniffed, then said in a firm, no-nonsense, authoritative manner. “I expect this room to be spotless when I return. So, I suggest you three start scrubbing as if your lives depended on it. Am I making myself clear?”   

The trio nodded.   

“Yes, Mom!”  
“Yes, Mom!”  
“Yes, Miranda!”  

***   

When Miranda came down after thirty minutes wearing casual black trousers and an off-the-shoulder beige cashmere sweater, both still costing more than Andy made in a week’s worth, the kitchen had been meticulously cleaned. The trio stood next to each other, forming a line with their hands behind their backs as if they belonged in the military. Miranda strolled over to the kitchen counter they stood next to and made a show of slowly running her index finger over it, then rubbed that fingertip against her thumb and inspected her hand.    

She looked over at the trio and nodded once. “At ease.”    

Andy and the twins let out a heavy breath that they had been holding. Grinning at each other, Andy held out both of her hands as the twins high-fived them.   

“Girls.” Miranda caught their attention again. “Why don’t you both go and get cleaned up. And please, do make sure that you do not get any of that grime you are covered with on anything as you head on up. Which most definitely means no stomping on the stairs.”   

“Yes, Mom.” The twins chorused as they left the kitchen.   

The two women looked over at each other when the children were gone, seemingly trying to read the other’s thoughts. Andy promptly knew that she wouldn’t be able to figure out what Miranda was thinking, so resolved to strike up a, most likely, awkward conversation.   

“I’m really sorry for the mess we’ve caused, Miranda. I swear, I didn’t mean for that to happen.”   

“When did my children call you?” Miranda asked, completely disregarding Andy’s words.   

Andy blinked at the sudden question, then answered. “ Uhm , on Friday. When you were in a meeting with the art department.”   

Narrowing her eyes, Miranda asked. “Why did they ask for you to help them?”   

Andy shrugged timidly as she rubbed at the back of her neck. “I don’t know. They just said that they wanted to make you happy after the tough week you were having. I didn’t want to comply at first. I knew you most likely wouldn’t approve of their plans and especially about me being here. But they were pretty adamant about it. I found myself not being able to say no to them. And I couldn't deny the fact that I wanted to do something as well to end your week on a high note. But, I’m really sorry about the whole thing, Miranda.”   

Miranda scrutinized her for a long moment as she ran the knuckle of her index finger over her bottom lip. The motion had Andy forcing herself, with an almighty effort, to not glance down and look at Miranda’s alluring lips. The longer the older woman gazed at her with her piercing blues, the more the silent tension started to affect her, the more Miranda’s presence started to unravel Andy.   

Andy couldn’t stop her mind from thinking how absolutely beautiful Miranda looked right now. The casual loungewear made the silver-haired woman appear amazingly softer somehow, having a homey feeling to it, and it intrigued the brunette like nothing ever had done before. It almost felt to Andy as if Miranda wasn’t wearing her usual armor. As if, without the carefully chosen, layers of designer clothing, Miranda had lowered one of her defenses, and it left Andy feeling overwhelmed with the sensation of being drawn in, drawn towards Miranda.  

“Hm.” Miranda hummed. Then she surprised Andy as she started to stalk forward, arctic blues never leaving hazel ones.   

Miranda stopped right in front of the younger woman, enveloping Andy with her delicious ambrosial perfume, causing Andy's mind to swoon and to feel enraptured by Miranda’s presence. Miranda reached her hand up and brushed her thumb over Andy’s cheek. Feeling her body heat up, the touch induced a delectable shiver to run up Andy’s spine as her breath caught in her throat. Miranda pulled back her hand and moved it towards her own face. Andy lost the forceful fight with herself as her gaze dropped to watch with darkening eyes as Miranda’s lips nipped at the pad of her thumb to taste the raspberry filling that she had collected from Andy’s cheek.   

“Hm.” Miranda hummed once more, making Andy feel as if she was about to faint from the heated tension coiling up within her body.   

“Pity about the cake,” Miranda said in a low, barely audible tone, the corners of her mouth slightly curling up in a wicked way as Andy unconsciously ran her tongue over her bottom lip.  

The thunderous stomping of dual pairs of feet on the stairs had Andy flinching out of her daze and Miranda turning away to walk towards the kitchen entrance.   

In a flash, two redheads appeared through the threshold as they happily grinned up at their mother.  

“All cleaned up!” The twins chorused gleefully.   

The gentle, affectionate smile that blossomed on Miranda’s face suddenly had Andy’s chest bursting with an enchanting, loving warmth.   

“Very well, my Bobbseys.” Miranda cooed softly as she poked both girls on their foreheads. “Now, did I hear incorrectly, or did you two say something about my favorite lasagna?”   

“Yes!” They chorused excitingly, both grabbing each of their mother’s hands and dragged her towards the oven.   

“It’s all done!” Caroline exclaimed.   

“It’s just being kept warm in the oven.” Cassidy chimed in.   

“You’ll love it!” Caroline declared. “It has loads and loads and loads of veggies.”   

Miranda brushed the back of her fingers on both her daughter’s cheeks. “I’m sure I will.”   

Andy slightly cleared her throat. “I’ll be taking my leave then.” She announced.   

Three pairs of blue eyes captured the brunette. “You’re leaving?” The Priestly women asked in chorus, making Andy chuckle as she nodded.   

“Why? Can’t you stay for dinner?” Cassidy asked as she ran over to her.   

“Yeah! Why don’t you stay?” Caroline whined as she ran over as well.   

Andy smiled affectionately down at them as she laid her hands on top of their heads. “I’d love to, sweeties. But you did this wonderful gesture for your mother, to make her happy. So, it’s only right that the two of you spent time with her for the rest of the day, don’t you think? We had our share of fun today, hadn’t we?”   

Both girls nodded.   

“Yeah.”  
“Yes.”  

Cassidy beamed up at her. “You’re right, Andy. I had a great time today! Thanks so much for helping us.”   

Caroline held onto Andy’s hand as she swung it back and forth. “Yeah! Today was really cool, Andy! I had loads of fun! I hope we get to do it again sometime!”   

Andy ruffled their heads as she said. “Thanks for the awesome day, kiddos. I had a wonderful time.” Then she poked both girls in the ribs, making them giggle. “Go on, now. Have a fun day with your mother.”   

Andy nearly toppled backward as both girls simultaneously threw themselves at her, enveloping her in a tight hug which Andy responded to in kind.   

“Alright, my tiny terrors.” Andy chuckled as she let them go. “We’ll hear each other soon, okay?”   

“’Kay, Andy.”  
“Okay, Andy.”  

“Thanks again, Andy.”  
“Thank you again, Andy.”  

Andy laughed as she shook her head. “Bye, girls.”   

“I’ll walk you out, Andréa.” Miranda’s voice caught Andy’s attention once again.   

She smiled shyly. “Sure, thanks.”    

The two women left the kitchen and walked side-by-side through the hallway until they reached the foyer in comfortable silence. Andy opened up the hall-closet, took out her jacket, and shrugged it on as she turned to face Miranda.   

Smiling her mega-watt grin, Andy said. “I hope you’ll like the lasagna, Miranda. And enjoy the rest of your Sunday.”   

Miranda’s eyes gentled as one corner of her mouth curled up in a smile, pulling at the younger woman’s heartstrings. “Thank you, Andréa. I’ll see you tomorrow.”   

Andy nodded, a beaming smile still firmly in place as she opened up the front door. Glancing back over her shoulder, her hazel eyes caught arctic blues one last time and winked. “See you tomorrow, Miranda.”  

Chapter Text

The two women were seated in the backseat of the town car whilst they were both responding to emails on their phones. They were on their way back to be delivered straight home after a long and stressful day because of a photoshoot Miranda had wanted to attend in person since the creation of the project consisted of a ridiculously high price tag. The shoot had taken the duo a little outside of the city. The drive over had been nearly two hours' worth without even a single minute where they hadn’t been making calls or sending texts to ensure that everything was proceeding according to the plan and schedule.   

Sending off her final email of the day, Andy tucked away her phone in her bag, rested her head against the backrest, and closed her eyes while letting out a tired but satisfied sigh. Turning her head to look outside of the window, she marveled and softly hummed in awe at the sight of the sun setting behind the horizon, painting the sky and veil-clouds in a variety of magical blue, yellow, orange, and red hues. Even if this sunset was one of the most magnificent ones Andy had ever seen, her mind couldn’t help but acknowledge that there would always be one sight that would effortlessly triumph over all the beauty the world possessed.    

Letting her eyes focus on the glass of the window, Andy gazed to admire the translucent reflection of the silver-haired woman, only to notice that Miranda was looking in her direction. Andy watched as Miranda’s eyes seemed to roam over every inch of her as if she were taking in every single little detail. With Miranda being unaware that Andy was watching her, she marveled excitingly at the unguarded look on Miranda’s face.   

The usual self-controlled, indifferent features had softened remarkably, bathing Miranda’s face in a serene warmth. The ironclad strictness of the always alluring pink lips had charmingly eased into a gentle smile, cold arctic blues had assuaged soothingly into a gaze full of tenderness, and dare say, fondness?    

Andy felt her heart constrict in yearning at the delicately stunning visage, causing her body to thrum in a blazing rapture. The breathtaking and heart-stopping manifestation overwhelmed the young woman’s sensitivity regarding Miranda as a tempestuous whirlwind swept up and captured her emotions and her thoughts swirled through her mind in frenzied turbulence.    

“Breathtaking,” Andy suddenly heard herself breathe.   

Andy continued to watch Miranda’s reflection as blue eyes slightly widened. Then, a perfectly sculpted eyebrow rose in a seemingly lighthearted incredulity as the gentle smile continued to compliment her flawlessly sculpted features.   

“Hmm.” Miranda hummed and softly agreed. “It is a rather beautiful sunset.”    

Andy turned her head, hazel eyes capturing arctic blues in a heavily charged gaze. At that moment, Andy didn’t realize that the rational part of her mind had been senselessly overtaken by her treacherous heart.   

“I wasn’t talking about the sunset.” Andy breathily admitted. Miranda raised a questioning eyebrow, indicating her to continue. Not breaking their gaze, Andy turned in her seat so she was facing the older woman.   

“Remember my letter?” Andy began.   

“How could I forget such an astounding piece of obsequious groveling?” Miranda said but the sarcasm it was delivered with, held not even the slightest hint of malice.   

Andy chuckled huskily, then questioned further. “Yes, well. Do you remember what it said about definitions?”   

“Hm, yes.” Miranda nodded. “I recall you stating the word ‘admire’ spoke of two definitions you thought that resolutely applied to me. However, I always wondered what the second one was.”   

“You didn’t look it up yourself?” Andy queried.   

Miranda shook her head. “I had an inkling that you might one day reveal that one to me. So, why spoil the treat?” She finished with a smirk.  

Andy chuckled again. “As unpredictable as ever, I see.”   

Miranda responded, feigning a haughty demeanor. “Ah, yes. One of those many pleasant qualities you appointed to me.”   

Andy nodded as she grinned. “Indeed, I did.”   

With curious eyes, Miranda slightly inclined her head to the side. “Thus, are you going to state your fourth declaration to me now, Andréa?”   

Andy paused for a moment as she licked her lips. “To admire.” She began softly but zealously. “To look at and regard with wonder… or pleasure at something, or someone impressive, attractive, or...”   

An ear-deafening, tension brimming silence draped over the two women for a heavily loaded moment.   

“Or what?” Miranda questioned covertly intrigued.   

Andy whispered darkly. “Or desirable.”    

Andy watched with rapt captivation as arctic eyes dimmed over their opal shade into a drowning ocean blue.   

“Explain,” Miranda instructed quietly, voice seemingly slightly strained.   

Andy gazed over Miranda’s shoulder to take in the rapidly darkening passing scenery.   

After a long, tense moment, she began, her eyes glazing over by an intense contemplation. “The enchanting beauty of the setting sun is rather unpredictable, wouldn’t you say?”    

Andy paused for a moment, lips curling up in a small wistful reminiscent smile that fleetingly faded into a look of earnest solemnity. “It’s such a fleeting concept. You see, the ambient vista has quite an unreliable nature, now that I think about it. Due to its exposing display being entirely dependable on so many elements. The seasons, for example. During wintertime, and fall as well, it will be a rather unstable prospect if you’re out looking to behold a sunset. The weather plays such a universal role in it.”   

She shook her head a little, entirely engrossed in her musings. “You won’t be able to even catch a glimpse at the setting rays if the skies are consumed by thick grey clouds. Dark gloomy weather makes it absolutely futile if you want to bask in the final lit minutes of the evening. Such are the days when it pours down from the heavens. Those rainy days are even more disheartening as they are hopeless since they will unequivocally continue with their arrivals during summer and spring. So, even on hot summer nights, exists the possibility that you’ll be robbed of a desirable sunset. And even if the universe has fated you a favor and you do manage to see it setting when the sky is free from any veiled obscurations, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll encounter one in its significant splendor.”    

Chuckling drearily at herself, Andy continued, a hint of sorrow lacing her voice. “The harsh truth is that the heavens might not be painted by nature’s treacherous hand, won’t be colored with an enamoring array of passionate shades or romantic hues to reinvigorate and enrapture your longing soul. It will only continue to solemnly dim and blacken somber shadows over our world until you’re completely concealed by darkness. Left to wallow in disenchanting disappointment.”    

Andy hummed pessimistically as she shook her head once more and frowned. “And furthermore, that’s what a sunset consequently leads up to, isn’t it? Darkness. The disillusioning sunset is what ultimately and dreadfully robs you from even being able to see any representing symbolization of beauty. It takes away your vision to regard, wonder, behold, observe, distinguish, discover, and so forth.”   

The brunette paused for a moment, silently acknowledging what everything was leading up to. “It basically strips away your ability to admire.”   

Andy blinked out of her contemplating daze as she focused her eyes back to gaze at mystifying ocean blues. “So, this brings me to my fourth declaration. Implicating that you are nothing like a sunset, Miranda. By virtue of your admirable beauty being a constant presence in my life.”   

Andy chuckled lightly, an adoring gleam in her eyes. “And I know what you might be thinking. You’ll think that a person’s beauty can’t possibly be a constant concept. You’ll think a person will age, lose their youthfulness, their vivacity, their fairness, their liveliness, and so forth. And yes, aging is inevitable. But that doesn’t take away a person’s beauty. Quite the contrary. I think a person becomes more beautiful with age. It means they’ve lived, learned, and grown. That enhances a person’s authentic resplendency. Simultaneously meaning that beauty doesn’t solely exist on appearances alone. It lives on inside of us as well.”   

Andy’s tone brimmed with vigorous sincerity as her eyes steadfastly pierced Miranda’s drowning oceans. “And that’s something that will never fade away. Not even in death. As you can carry on someone’s beauty inside of you. You pass it on for a heartfelt remembrance, you can even pass it on through fertility. As long as there are people around that love you, your beauty will continue to live on infinitely in this world. You’ll continue on to be admired, till the end of time.”   

The sun had already set behind the horizon. The night’s darkness surrounded the two women, cloaking them in a bewitching atmosphere, guarding their enraptured souls in the clandestine moment as their charged gazes were captured in disembodying spiritual entanglement.   

Heavy breaths caught in thundering chests as a blaring horn of a passing truck broke through the profoundly laden, suppressing silence that had encompassed its prisoners.   

Andy flinched and blinked, an unforeseen overwhelming turbulent tidal wave crashing into her mind, flooding her with self-consciousness.    

Feeling mortifyingly embarrassed with burning red cheeks, Andy looked shyly down at her lap as she cleared her throat, rubbing at the back of her neck. “So, yeah. Uhm, that’s that, I guess, y’know. The ending-, sort of-, to my letter-, if you will.”   

“Hm.” Miranda hummed softly, a beautiful unguarded smile gracing her features. “I never would have thought that you could be so articulate, Andréa. Considering that most of the time, you evidently jabber in a blathering clutter of disarray. Precisely as you did just now.”   

Andy couldn’t stop her endearing laughter at the lightheartedly delivered remark from Miranda. “I know.” Her laughter faded into a chuckle. “I’m not usually such a babbling mess, y’know. But you seem to invoke that peculiarity out of me.”   

“So, it seems.” Miranda paused, seemingly to contemplate what she wanted to say next. “I can see clearly now why you want to be a writer. You are rather eloquent when you express something you are, well, passionate about.”   

Andy blinked, in an instant, a face-splitting, mega-watt beaming smile emerged on her face. “Wow.” She breathed. “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”   

“Yes, well.” The silver-haired woman sniffed as a corner of her mouth twitched, seemingly trying to hide another smile. “Seems only fair I return the favor, since you so outspokenly silver-tongued your way into declaring that you admire my allegedly amaranthine beauty.”   

A rousing blast erupted in the pit of Andy’s fluttering stomach by the words Miranda had used to describe her eloquence, filtering the inhibition out of her double-entendre-laced response. “You certainly have a cajoling way with enticing words yourself, Miranda.”   

An ostensibly lecherous glint fleetingly flickered in ocean blues as Miranda’s lips curled into a wicked grin. “I am rather well known for thought-provoking my minions with my quick-witted sharp-tongue, aren’t I, Andréa?”   

Andy nodded leisurely, feeling a simmering sweat transpire on her back as her body thrummed with titillation. “Yes, you most explicitly are.” She breathed. “It is with unquestionable wonder that you have the world kneeling before your feet, Miranda.”   

“Hm.” Miranda hummed as she ran the knuckle of her index finger over her bottom lip. “And do you?”   

“Do I what?” Andy questioned.   

The lecherous glint flickered in ocean blues once more. “Do I have you kneeling at my feet, Andréa?”   

The energetic atmosphere surrounding the two women within the suddenly cramped confinements of the back of the town car pulsated with an electrifying, tension brimming intensity. The hair-raising, crackling air surged over the younger woman’s skin, triggering, and awakening a never before felt sensitivity of her senses. Feeling as if the clothes touching her body had her bound and constricted in an unpleasant, feverishly tightening strangulation.   

Andy responded in a low, strained voice. “I admire you.” She cleared her throat. “Doesn’t that confirm that you have me doing exactly that, Miranda?”   

Wicked eyes, gazed unabashedly as an audaciously devilish grin appeared on Miranda’s face. “Is there something else that I’m having you do, Andréa?” There was no denying the suggestiveness dripping from Miranda’s voice.   

Suddenly, several flashes of late-night memories flickered through Andy’s mind, where she saw her naked self, sweating on her bed in the secrecy of her dark bedroom whilst she unceremoniously sexually pleasured herself with carnal lewdness to thoughts and visions of the older woman.    

The smug, knowing look on Miranda’s face overpowered Andy with shameful mortification and humiliation causing all her previous rousing feelings to evaporate in an instant, overtaken by bitterness and irritation instead.   

Andy felt her uncontrollable temper  rise  to the forefront of her being as she nearly growled. “Are you belittling me, Miranda? Does it amuse you to play me like that?”   

In a freezing instant, Miranda schooled her features back into a callous expression as she raised a menacing eyebrow and snarled. “What on earth are you babbling about?”   

Andy scoffed in incredulity. “Oh, don’t start feigning ignorance now, Miranda. You’re toying with me. Again. You probably think my declarations are pathetic, coming from your lapdog of an assistant, don’t you?”   

Miranda rolled her eyes as she mocked with annoyance. “I see. You think I am stepping on your toes, aren’t you? Seems like your insecurities are getting the better of you, Andréa.”   

Andy tightly clenched her fists, knuckles turning white as her eyes flared with aggravation. “Does it please you, to taunt me into feeling pathetic about myself?” She sneered. “Are you really that coldhearted that you’re mocking my admiration for you?”   

“André-”   

Andy scornfully shook her head as she interrupted Miranda. “Are you seriously trying to ridicule me when I’ve been nothing but candid and heartfelt about my thoughts and-”   

Andr -”   

Growling, Andy spoke over Miranda once again, too tormented to realize that her temper had vanquished her rational sanity. “Are you really that conceited that you’re using my feelings to boast your pride? Or are you-”   

“Andréa.”   

Her rising anger getting the better of her, Andy yelled. “What?! Miranda, what? Why are you belittling me?! After everything I’ve-”   

“Andréa! Will you just stifle that jabbering mouth of yours for a minute!” The loud, exasperating, not quite yelling voice of Miranda had stunned Andy into silence, for never having heard Miranda raise her voice before.    

Miranda grumbled as she pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers. “For heaven’s sake, you are giving me a headache.”   

She looked up again, piercing Andy with an incensed gaze. “I am not belittling you, Andréa. I cannot even begin to comprehend as to why that thought suddenly infested into that feebleminded little head of yours.”   

Andy scoffed incredulously as she rolled her eyes, her voice dripping with enraged bitterness. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, right? Didn’t you just hear yourself?! You literally just insulted me yet again! You've been belittling me for months on end, Miranda! I had to listen to you mock, ridicule, and insult me at least a dozen times a day for fucking months. So, don’t talk such bullshit. Don’t you dare say that you don’t understand why I suddenly feel assailed by you. You’ve mercilessly drilled and hammered such vulnerable instability into me, to the point of you degrading me even in my nightmares, for God’s sake. That’s not something I can just simply shake off and forget as if it hadn’t affected and damaged me in some way,  Miranda .”   

Andy spat out the editor’s name with contempt. Turning around, she looked outside of the window at the darkness of the night, feeling as if she were staring into a resemblance of her tarnished soul. Frustratingly shaking her head at herself, she tried to focus on her breaths, attempting to calm her temper, raging thoughts and boiling blood.   

A heavily oppressed silence weighed down upon the two women for several long excruciating moments.    

“You’re right.” The whispered words of Miranda broke through the stillness that had overburdened them.   

Andy continued to shelter herself in her unmoving passiveness.   

Miranda sighed. “Even though I find your eloquence quite displeasing this time, I cannot deny that you are right. I acknowledge now that I have been rather cruel towards you, Andréa.”   

Continuing to gaze outside the window, Andy rested her chin in her hand as she muttered. “Took you long enough.”   

After another oppressed pause, Miranda responded, a slight hint of consternation lacing her tone. “Yes, well. I admit I might have let myself get carried away in the asperity of my antagonistic blood.”   

Andy distraughtly shook her head, glanced at Miranda for a second, then turned back towards the window. “Don’t.” She whispered. “Don’t do that either, Miranda. Don’t disparage yourself.”   

“Then what do you want me to do, Andréa?” Miranda questioned irritably but with a tinge of distress. “I have admitted to being at fault, have I not? Honestly, what more could you want from me? Do you want me to-…"   

Miranda’s voice trailing off had Andy turning her head to look at the older woman. Miranda looked at her with apprehending suspicion, seemingly in hesitation as to what to say next.   

“Miranda?” Andy queried with unease, starting to feel apprehensive herself.   

“I-,” Miranda began, apparently feeling unsure about how to proceed.    

“Are you okay?” Andy whispered anxiously.  

“Yes. I-, well. I should-, need to-, you know.” Miranda let out a frustrated breath as she flicked her hand in the air, then frowned and shook her head at herself.   

“I’m starting to grow really worried here,” Andy said, lightly freaking out. “Why are you blathering like me?”  

“I do not  blather , Andréa.” Miranda snarled. “I am merely trying to apologize.” Then she huffed, crossed her arms over her chest, and looked out of her own window.   

Andy stared at Miranda with widened incredulous eyes as her mouth hung slightly hung open in shock. After a breath, boisterous laughter resounded through the back of the town car.   

Miranda’s head snapped back around as she squinted at the laughing assistant, as well as pursing her lips. When Andy’s laughter died down, Miranda sneered. “What on earth had you making that ridiculous sound?”   

“Sorry. I’m sorry.” Andy chuckled as she wiped a tear away, then realizing what she had said, proceeded to erupt into uproarious laughter once more.   

“Honestly, Andréa. Quit that cackling of yours and tell me what you find so comical.” Miranda complained irritably.   

“Oh, Miranda.” Andy breathed, wiping at another tear. “I just can’t believe how painfully challenging it was for you to try an attempt at an apology when I didn’t even realize how freely I was giving them  out to you.” Andy giggled, her face-splitting, mega-watt smile lightening up the darkness of the town car.   

Miranda’s narrowed eyes sternly regarded the younger woman. Andy watched in gleeful delight as Miranda’s lips twitched into a genuine smile as a light, charming laughter suffused her heart, making it overflow with loving adoration.   

Miranda chuckled out her laugh, her features unrivaled by the beautification of the joyous look on her face. “Yes. That is rather ridiculous, isn’t it?”   

“Glad we finally agree on something.” Andy giggled, then because she simply couldn’t keep the lovely discovery of her epiphany to herself, said. “You are absolutely, stunningly beautiful when you laugh, Miranda.”   

Miranda rolled her eyes lightheartedly. “Do not dare tell that to anyone. I do not want you out there tarnishing my reputation.”   

“Oh, no. I would never.” Andy chuckled as she shook her head. “This has been something personal that I’ll continue to cherish from now on. It’s of nobody else’s business as far as I’m concerned.”   

Miranda shook her head as well, as she gazed, seemingly affectionate, at Andy. “You are ridiculous, Andréa.”   

“I know.” Andy shrugged grinning. “Better get used to it.”   

“Hm.” Miranda thoughtfully regarded her for a moment. “Perhaps I will.”   

The two women smiled at each other for a long valuing, comfortable moment until Miranda glanced over Andy’s shoulder.   

“I will see you tomorrow, Andréa.”   

Andy raised her eyebrows in confusion. “What?” Then felt the car slow down to a stop, looking over Miranda’s shoulder, she realized they had arrived at Miranda’s townhouse. “Oh.” She gazed back at the editor as she nodded and smiled. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Miranda. Have a pleasant evening.”   

Miranda graced the brunette with one final unguarded smile. “You as well, Andréa.”  

Chapter Text

Two weeks had passed since the fateful car ride in the setting sun, and Andy found herself feeling exuberant and all over the moon. It felt as if she were looking through a looking-glass, where her relationship with Miranda couldn’t be more of a contrary contrast to the time when they had returned from Paris.    

The mercurial editor was still very much the same in her tyrannical management of the multi-million-dollar flagship that is Runway magazine. That is a testimony that not even any sign or form of a deity in speculative existence could change about Miranda’s foreseeable destiny. She was still mercilessly unrelenting in asking for the most impossible of inconceivable demands from her minions as well as being frighteningly menacing in her acrimonious demeanor.    

It was still very much expected of Andy to reach for the stars on the daily. The only difference now was that the venomously wicked, ruthless remarks were no longer directed at her, which left her accomplishing the unsurmountable, unattainable, and impossible with high-spirited, light-hearted reinvigorated energy.    

There was one other aspect that had changed in the dynamic between the two women. It was the main reason why Andy felt so utterly elated.  

Miranda had taken to complaining about everything and nothing whilst she was alone with her, effectively opening a door for them to communicate on a level they hadn’t been able to do until now. Even if they weren’t necessarily growing closer on a more personal level, since their conversations were strictly about work and the incompetence surrounding them, Andy couldn’t be more overjoyed and enchanted about the development.   

It was as if the path between one of the many walls surrounding Miranda had been illuminated, making her travels down the barrier-filled road just that little bit easier to navigate. She could still see countless obstacles and hurdles for her to overcome in the distance, but Andy was nothing if not resolutely determined to unwaveringly conquer Miranda’s defenses to achieve her purpose. To become someone fundamentally essential and meaningful in the life of the woman that is Miranda Priestly.   

Andy’s love for the silver-haired woman had only grown with earnest intensity in its already vigorous vitality. At times, especially during the moments where Miranda made a remark that wasn’t intended to be comical, Andy wondered how such an overwhelming, spine-tingling, heart-stopping feeling could exist. How she was one of the lucky ones to wander this earth to have been graced with such mind-shattering and soul-consuming sensations.   

However, she also felt brutally cursed at times to feel as strongly as she did. There were nightly moments where she only felt despair and heartache for loving someone who would more than likely never return her love. It felt like her passionate travels were overpowering her with hopeless endeavors because the one thing she ultimately desired to obtain was a heart that might never be hers, to begin with.   

During those melancholic late-night contemplations, the young woman would lie awake, staring up in the darkness of her bedroom at the crack in her ceiling, and mourn for the hopeless unattainability that would leave her inevitably crestfallen and utterly brokenhearted.    

It was when the sun was setting behind the horizon that the words she had spoken to Miranda, in their fateful car ride, would come to the forefront of her mind.   

‘The harsh truth is that the heavens might not be painted by nature’s treacherous hand. Won’t be colored with an enamoring array of passionate shades, or romantic hues to reinvigorate and enrapture your longing soul. It will only continue to solemnly dim and blacken somber shadows over our world until we’re completely concealed by darkness. Left to wallow in disenchanting disappointment.’   

Andy hadn’t realized it at the time but now recognized in hindsight that her description of a disenchanting disappointed sunset was the spitting image of her nightly wallowing soul.   

Her heavens might not be painted by the universe’s sympathetic hand. Her life won’t be colored, won’t be fulfilled with an enamoring array of passionate feelings, or romantic emotions to reinvigorate and enrapture her love-longing soul. Her spirits might only continue to solemnly dim and blacken as somber shadows would cast over her world until she’s completely concealed by heartbreaking darkness.   

Fortunately, the days did not only consist of despairing sunsets because when the inevitable rising of the sun would awaken her the following morning, the prospect of her soul interacting once more with the woman she desired overpowered her grief-stricken, heavy heart.   

It was waking up to a new day filled with the visions, the scent, the sounds, and sometimes even the touch of Miranda that breathed new life into her, replenishing and reviving her spirits to continue to be the person, in any type of transfiguration, Miranda needed her to be.   

And today was that fateful day where Miranda needed Andy to be something more than just an exceptional assistant.   

***   

“Andréa.”   

Andy rolled her eyes at herself as she, for the thousandth time, felt the butterflies in her stomach flutter every single time Miranda would call out her name in that delightful accent that only she used. Upon walking into the inner office, Andy was slightly surprised to see Miranda already watching her. Most of the time, Miranda wouldn’t even look up from her work as she demanded something from her, or would only look up at the very end of delivering an endless list of tasks and errands.   

The butterflies in Andy’s stomach seemed to travel up her tingling spine as Miranda continued to scrutinize her with her elbows elegantly poised on the glass desk, fingers interlaced, her chin resting gracefully on top of her hands, and the look on her face thoughtful, but as unreadable as ever.   

Feeling the butterflies travel down her legs, after what felt like an eternity under Miranda’s single-minded, contemplative attention, Andy spoke up before she went fully weak at the knees, and inevitably making a fool out of herself for falling over for seemingly no reason whatsoever.    

“Miranda? Is there something I can do for you?” Andy queried innocently.   

“Hm.” Miranda hummed softly.    

After another long minute of contemplative scrutinization, Miranda lowered one arm onto the armrest of her desk chair while the other remained in place, the knuckle of her index finger running slowly over her bottom lip. It took all the strength Andy had to not fall over there and then as the butterflies were wreaking havoc in her knees, making them tremble in nervous excitement.   

After what seemed like an eternity, Miranda said softly. “I seem to have found myself in quite the predicament.”    

Andy questioned, already determined to fix whatever the problem was for the older woman. “Oh? Is everything alright? What can I do to help?”    

Suddenly, Andy felt as if she’d been transported to the twilight zone as the editor did something she had never done before, Miranda explained herself.   

“You see, Cara, the twins’ sitter just called. She has gotten herself into a little accident, meaning she will not be able to retrieve and watch the girls after school. She was supposed to stay with them this evening as well since I have to attend Donatella’s soiree tonight. The girls’ father cannot watch them either since he’s in Chicago on a business trip.” Miranda fell silent, seemingly uncertain on how to proceed.   

Ready to establish a solution, Andy suggested. “Should I call a nanny service and see if they have someone available this evening? Or would you rather have me call one of the girls’ friends' parents and ask if they can stay over tonight?”  

Miranda shook her head. “No. I am not comfortable with leaving the girls in the hands of a stranger. And I do not allow them to have a sleepover during a school night yet.”   

“Alright.” Andy inclined her head to the side. “What do you need me to do then?”   

“Well, I was wondering.” Miranda paused for a moment as she sat back in her seat. “Would you mind watching my girls for me tonight? Until I am back from Donatella’s?”   

Andy blinked, no longer feeling as if she were simply in the twilight zone but rather in an entirely different universal dimension on another planet altogether since Miranda wasn’t demanding her, but was asking her, another thing she never did. “You-, you’re-. You’re asking me?”   

Miranda blinked as well. “I-, well-, yes. I suppose I am. Since this is rather something of a more personal nature.” She paused for a moment, an uncertain look fleetingly crossing over her face. “You may decline, of course. Since this is not something that is listed in your job description.”   

Andy flashed her mega-watt smile. “Oh, no. I don’t mind. At all. In fact, I’m thrilled, honored that you thought of asking me. I adore the twins and I love spending time with them. So, yes, of course. I’d love to watch them for you, Miranda.”   

Miranda sighed, seemingly letting out a breath she’d been holding. “Good.” She nodded as she visibly relaxed. “They speak rather highly of you. I am sure they will be thrilled as well. Just promise me that my kitchen, or any other room for that matter, will not end up in a cluster of sticky chaos this time.”   

Andy chuckled, rubbing at the back of her neck as she joked. “I’m not sure if I can make such a promise. They are quite a pair of unpredictable turbulent terrors, after all.” She giggled and winked. “I wonder who they got that from?”   

Miranda rolled her eyes, her voice feigning bored ignorance. “I am sure I have no idea as to who you might be referring to.”   

Andy laughed as she said. “Yeah, that is quite the conundrum, isn’t it? Anyway, I guess I should be heading out then if I want to get to Dalton on time. What do you want me to arrange for the Book? Do you want it electronically delivered or should I make Avery do it?”   

“Oh, it that Emily’s name?” Miranda asked, disinterest dripping from her tone, then shook her head. “No. Leave the Book tonight. I do not know as to what time I shall return after the soiree. However, I shall be home around six to prepare and leave shortly after. I trust my house will not be burned to the ground by then.” She raised a threatening eyebrow, but could not contain the slight twitch at the corner of her lips as she stared Andy down.   

Andy chuckled mischievously. “Told you I’m making no such promises.” Then promptly turned on her heels and  sashayed  out of the office. Glancing back over her shoulder, she laughed. “They’re your kids after all!”   

Miranda continued to gaze at her retreating assistant until she was entirely out of her sight. She rolled her eyes at the newly discovered audacity of the younger woman. However, she could not stop an amusing smile forming on her lips.   

***   

“Andy? Andyy!!!” The twins screeched and torpedoed into a run when they saw the brunette standing at the gates in front of their school.   

Andy laughed as she gave them a small wave. “Hiya, kiddo-umpff”   

The twins had launched themselves at Andy, enveloping her in a bone-crushing hug as she caught her balance just in time before they all would’ve landed rather ungracefully on their bums. The girls started chattering loudly over each other, so excitingly fast that Andy couldn’t make out what they were saying.   

“Girls, girls. Calm down.” Andy laughed as she laid her hands on top of their heads. “One at a time. Or,  y’know , at the same time but saying the exact same thing  you  terrors do in that creepy twin way of yours.”   

“What are you doing here?!” The twins chorused gleefully, causing Andy to laugh again.   

“Well, Cara had a little accident, meaning she couldn’t take care of you today. So, your mother asked me if I wanted to watch over you until she’s back tonight.”   

“She did?!” Cassidy asked, her own mega-watt smile beaming on her face.   

“Mom  asked  you?!” Caroline asked with a look of disbelief on her face.   

“Yup, she sure did.” Andy grinned. “Believe me, I was rather surprised myself that she thought of me to take care of you. I honestly thought for a moment that your mother had been kidnapped and I was talking to her doppelganger when she  asked  me, rather nicely I might add if I wanted to do this for her.”   

“Does this mean we can have pizza for dinner?!” Caroline squealed with a look of earnest excitement as she bounced up and down while clutching Andy’s hand in hers.   

Andy looked down at a still very beaming Cassidy. “You up for pizza, kiddo?”   

Cassidy nearly squealed as well as she frantically nodded her head. “Yes! Definitely! Mom rarely lets us eat any junk food. She said it’ll turn you into a resemblance of Jabba the Hutt in no time.”   

Andy’s eyes widened in disbelief, then she bellowed out in boisterous laughter as she held on to her stomach.   

“What? What’s so funny?” Caroline queried as she looked at her as if she’d lost her mind.   

“I just-, I can’t-” Andy chuckled out the last of her laughter as she wiped the tears away at the corner of her eyes. “God! I just can’t believe your mother made a Star Wars reference. I never would’ve guessed, not even in a million years that she’d know who Jabba is.””   

“Yeah!” Cassidy giggled. “We made her watch them with us. She’s a fan. Even if she’ll deny it as if her life depended on it.”   

“I give you one chance to figure out Mom’s favorite character,” Caroline grinned wickedly.   

Andy shook her head. “Let’s see, does he come in head-to-toe black with a helmet that makes his breath sound as if he was scuba diving?”   

“Yeah!”  
“Yes!” The twins chorused as they all laughed.  

***   

After a light snack upon their return to the townhouse, Andy had helped the twins to finish their homework and were now playing a game of Dance Dance Revolution before dinner in the twins’ playroom, which was quite frankly about the size of her apartment.   

Andy absolutely adored to spent time with the girls. They were incredibly, almost scarily smart for their young age, not to mention ridiculously funny since Andy had to often clutch at her stomach and wipe away several tears, nearly making her topple over because she had to laugh so hard. She delighted in their personalities as well. They were so very different from each other, it was as if they were literally polar opposites, and yet they complimented the other so beautifully that it seemed like they were a sister version of soulmates.    

But what Andy loved about them the most was how much alike their mother they were. Each twin held a variety of different traits that were similar to Miranda.   

Cassidy had an extraordinarily brilliant mind. She was so quick on the uptake with everything that it completely blew away Andy’s mind on multiple occasions. She also, without a doubt, got Miranda’s artistic gene. The girl’s drawings were phenomenal and the eye for detail she possessed was out of this world. Her cool and collective nature was definitely something she’d learned from her mother’s behavior. Always thinking with a rational mind, outweighing the pros and cons of every situation.    

The girl was also very sensitive and emotional, something Andy sensed about Miranda that she hid behind her walls and business persona. It was something the editor had learned to control about herself in a meticulous manner. Cassidy was still very much too young to learn how to control her thoughts and feelings, as she carried her delicate heart on her sleeve. Her face always so open and unrestrained that you could easily read her like an open book.   

Caroline on the other hand definitely carried on Miranda’s temper. Even if Miranda didn’t react in an overly expressive way when she was frustrated or angry, it was obvious that her irritation was easily provoked. Caroline was like a mini-Miranda that did lash out in furious exasperation and fiery outrage. Her unpredictable nature often had Andy’s mind swirling in a crisscross of directions. Her quick-wit was undoubtedly another gene from her mother. The girl was so clever and snarky in her comments that it left Andy amazed and maybe even a little bit unsettled about how scintillatingly witty the girl would become when she was all grown up. Caroline might not have as much of an artistic side but she was intensely passionate about a variety of things, mainly all things physical as she loved to play soccer and enjoyed dancing.    

However, what truly had Andy swooning with love and affection were the expressive telling traits they shared with their mother. The raising of an immaculate eyebrow when they queried, the small sniff when they found something amusing but didn’t want to let it on, the way they would raise their chin in challenge, the narrowing of their eyes in scrutiny, or when they inclined their heads to the side in thoughtfulness.    

The entire combination of all three Priestly women in her life left Andy with a bursting heart, overflowing with the love she held for all of them, and she could only hope and pray that she would get the privilege of seeing the twins grow into beautiful mature women as they made their own way into the big wide world.    

“C’mon, Andy! You almost got her!” Cassidy cheered on from where she was sitting on the couch behind Andy and her sister as they were nearing the end of their dance-off.   

“Supporting for the wrong team, Cass!” Caroline jeered breathlessly as she stepped, bounced, twirled, and hopped as if her life depended on it.   

Andy flawlessly executed each move as she panted, heart thrumming intensively as sweat dripped from her forehead and temples, over her cheeks, droplets falling from her chin, landing on her chest, sliding down even further, and disappearing between the valley of her bouncing breasts.   

As the song was coming to an end, Andy twirled out a dance move but failed a step as her eyes caught a glimpse of silver at the doorway. Stumbling over her own foot, Andy lost her balance and within the blink of an eye, landed with a heavy thud on her backside.   

“Ouch! Darn it.” Andy grumbled as she rubbed her left butt cheek.  

“I won!” Caroline squealed loudly as she jumped up and down. Turning to look down at the woman on the floor, she pointed her finger as she laughed. “Got yah! Told you I’d beat yah, Andy! I knew your clumsy feet would be no match for me.” She raised her hands above her head as she laughed evilly, very much like a villain in superhero movies.   

“No fair!” Andy complained. “I got distracted.”    

She turned her head then to look towards the doorway. She felt her already thundering heart skipping several beats as she saw Miranda leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed over her chest, a wicked but amused grin gracing her features, and her enchanting arctic blues glistering with unguarded mirth. If Andy lungs weren’t in desperate need of oxygen, her breath would have been most definitely caught in her throat as she gazed at the stunning silver-haired woman.   

“Honestly, Andréa.” Miranda chuckled, the sound sending a delightful shiver up Andy’s spine. “Why am I not at all surprised that you are as much of a floundering klutz without heels as you are in them.”   

Andy rolled her eyes lightheartedly. “Why don’t you come up here then and try to beat me if you can? We’ll see who will have the last laugh then, Miranda.” She taunted, an audacious challenge beaming from her eyes.   

Nooo !!” The twins horrifying screech made her wince at the harsh sound.   

“Don’t challenge her, Andy! Not if you know what’s good for you. You won’t stand a chance!” Cassidy declared with terror, an earnest worried look on her face.   

Caroline chimed in, utterly terror-stricken as she flailed her arms out dramatically. “She’ll mop the floor with you, Andy! You’ll be left in the dust. She’ll beat you to a pulp! You’ll be squashed, crushed, and completely demolished! You’ll be absolutely annihilated!”   

Andy threw her head back in uproarious laughter. She shook her head in joyous disbelief with a face-splitting grin on her face as her eyes watched Miranda stalking towards her, eerily similar to a feline predator, with an evil smirk and a diabolical look gleaming in her eyes.   

“My God, Miranda. Seriously, you’re as unpredictable as they come. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to lose against you in a dance-off.” Andy chuckled as she looked up from her seated position on the floor at Miranda, who now stood towering above her.   

“Hm.” Miranda hummed, diabolical look still firmly in place. “And lose you most certainly will, Andréa.” She nearly growled as she held out her hand for the brunette.   

Andy slid her hand into the warm and softest hand she’d ever felt, feeling a delectable tingle run up her arm and down her spine. She let herself be pulled up with surprising strength and couldn’t hide her gasp as she found herself standing almost chest to chest to the older woman, their hands still firmly clutched together.   

It was entirely futile to fight against the burning blush heating up her chest and cheeks as Miranda said, more likely purred. “Surely, you must know by now, Andréa, that I dominantly excel in everything that I do.”   

A scorching heat discharged from Andy’s lower belly, traveling a blazing path through her veins to every single nerve ending within her body. She watched in ardent rapture as Miranda’s arctic-turned-opal intense gaze traveled to one of her temples, following a droplet of sweat down to her chin, and lower still as it fell onto Andy’s still heaving chest, watching it disappear out of sight between her breasts, the tops of which were slightly revealed by her low-cut blouse.   

Opal-turned-ocean blazing blues snapped up to capture and pierce glazed-over hazel ones, nearly blackened out by Andy’s dilated pupils.   

“Mom! Guess what?! We’re having pizza for dinner!” Caroline’s joyful squeal penetrated and ruptured the intimate bubble the two women had found themselves in.    

Both women took an immediate step away from each other as they drew back their hands that had still been clutched together, as if their touch had suddenly burned their skin.   

With Miranda’s otherworldly skill in regaining her composure, she turned her head to look at her daughters who were sitting on the couch next to each other, crossed legs, feigning innocence but couldn’t hide their slightly wider, gleeful eyes.   

“Is that so?” Miranda queried perilously. She turned to face Andy once more who seemed to have regained her innocent and professional composure again, but her cheeks were still a darker shade of pink. “Tell me, Andréa,” Miranda said threateningly as she crossed her arms over her chest, a look of feigned displeasure on her face as she narrowed her eyes and raised her chin slightly. “Are you trying to abrogate my children by feeding them a poisonous amount of carbs into their delicate little bellies?”  

Andy shook her head and smirked wickedly. “Would you rather have us go another round in your kitchen, Miranda? You know as well as I do how wonderful that turned out last time.”   

The twins giggled as Miranda rolled her eyes, then sniffed. “Do not even dare and cook in this house, Andréa. Not unless you suddenly want to find yourself six feet under in my backyard.”   

Andy chuckled. “That’s what I thought.”   

Miranda nodded curtly, then faced her daughters. “Very well. Pizza just this once, girls. Do not get used to it. Now, I have to go and get dressed to meet with your auntie ‘Tella. I will come back to say goodbye before I leave.”   

“Okay, Mom.” The twins chorused.   

Miranda turned her head to peruse Andy from top to bottom once more. “Come with me for a moment, Andréa.”   

Andy felt her heart skip a beat as she nodded. “Yes, Miranda.” And proceeded to follow her out of the playroom.   

Andy had to fight with an almighty effort to not let her gaze rest upon the enticingly swaying hips and derriere of Miranda as she followed her up a flight of stairs. She continued to follow her down a hallway she hadn’t seen before and into a dark room. When the light flicked on, Andy’s eyes widened immeasurably, nearly falling out of their sockets as she realized she was standing in Miranda’s bedroom.   

The room was enormous and exuded a divine, decadent luxuriance as if she were standing in the bedroom of a queen in the most magnificent palace on earth. It was mainly colored in light shades of beige and grey, accentuated with beautiful blue and golden details. The rich wooden furniture went along gorgeously with the dark wooden floor. Her hands twitched to run them over the huge, dark royal blue carpet encircling underneath the bed since it looked like it was made out of the softest, cloud-like fabric in existence. But it was the bed, oh, the bed. It was the biggest, most inviting, four-poster bed she’d ever laid eyes on. Against the headrest were a variety of impeccably placed pillows in different shades of gold and grey. Andy was adamantly certain that the golden sheets with silver embroidery, shimmering exquisitely in the soft light, were made out of the highest thread count ever to be made. The imperiality of it all seemed to call out to her, beckoning her to lie down on it and have a taste of its wanton provocativeness.   

“These should fit you just fine.” Miranda’s voice snapped Andy out of her awestruck reverie.    

Andy turned her head towards Miranda who was coming out of another doorway to the far side of the bedroom, which must’ve led to the closet if the bundle of clothes she was holding was any indication.   

Miranda walked over and held out the clothes to Andy, who had a questioning look on her face as she reached out to take them.   

“These were from the days when I was pregnant with the girls but I have never worn them. They will be entirely more comfortable for you to wear if you will continue to exercise in activities that have you transpiring the way you did.” Miranda rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “Honestly, Andréa. That McQueen blouse you are wearing was most definitely not designed for the purpose of dancing and most certainly will I not allow it to have pizza stains on it.”   

“Right.” Andy chuckled as she nodded once. “Thank you, Miranda. I’ll let you prepare for the soiree tonight.” She turned around but paused before crossing the threshold onto the hallway. She looked back over her shoulder to see Miranda still watching her. Andy raised a playful eyebrow as she giggled and queried. “Auntie ‘Tella, Miranda? Really?”   

Miranda rolled her eyes as she placed her hands on her hips but couldn’t hide the amused smile. “Do not remind me of how ridiculous that sounds. Donatella had insisted the twins call her that.” She shook her head. “I have no clue as to what she was thinking when she said that.”   

Andy chuckled, a wicked glint in her eyes. “So, what does Allegra call you? Auntie ‘ Randa ?”   

Miranda looked positively, horror-strikingly aghast, then pointed towards the door. “Leave right this instant and do not even dare to let me hear such an appalling, foul-mouth ever again.”   

"Yes, Miranda." Andy laughed in delight as she left the bedroom.   

***   

“Alright, I’m off now, girls,” Miranda said as she walked into the kitchen where the trio had just begun digging into their pizzas.  

“Okay, Mom.” The twins chorused, their attention solely focused on devouring their dinner.   

Andy’s mouth hung slightly open, nearly drooling, with her pizza slice that had been on its way towards her mouth hovering mid-air. She was utterly stunned into marveling-turned-arousing paralysis as her hungry roaming eyes drank up the exquisitely stunning-turned-salacious vision of the silver-haired woman.   

Miranda wore a delectable, form-fitting, champagne-colored cocktail dress that ended just above the knees of flawlessly pristine alabaster legs, feet clad in striking strappy black four-inch heels. The neckline of the dress plunged sexually sinful to reveal a delicious set of slopes, pressed together to create a mouth-watering sight of a seductive valley.   

“Dear God, have mercy on me,” Andy whispered breathlessly, unfortunately, loud enough for Miranda to hear.  

Miranda raised an inquisitive eyebrow, a smug smile forming on her lips as she observed Andy’s unguarded look for a long moment. She turned her head towards her pizza-ravaging daughters, her eyes looking up towards the heavens as she shook her head.   

“Girls. I will see you in the morning. I expect you in bed no later than nine.” She turned her authoritative gaze towards Andy. “Or there will be consequences.”   

Andy gulped loudly as she nodded, not daring to speak in fear of her voice coming out in a rather ungraceful and embarrassing squeak.   

“Okay, Mom.” The twins chorused, their mouths filled to the brim.   

Miranda scrunched up her nose at the sight. She let out a sigh and a tender, affectionate smile graced her features, she walked over as she said. “Enjoy the rest of your evening and be good to Andréa.” Bending down to deliver a kiss to each of the girls’ heads, she whispered adoringly. “Goodnight, my Bobbseys. I love you.”   

The loving words uttered from Miranda’s lips pulled at Andy’s heartstrings.   

“Goodnight, Mom. I love you too.” The twins chorused yet again, this time, their mouths empty, and smiled lovingly up at their mother.   

The editor gazed up towards the assistant once more. “I will see you later tonight, Andréa.”   

Andy nodded, still completely awe-struck with love and desire as she rasped out. “Enjoy your evening, Miranda.”   

***   

After Andy had put the exhausted twins to bed after an evening filled with games and joyous laughter, she’d found her way into Miranda’s study. Perusing the wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling bookcase of her dreams, she picked out a novel she hadn’t had the chance to read yet. Switching on the gas fireplace, she laid down onto the most ridiculously comfortable couch in existence in front of it, and settled in to read whilst waiting for Miranda’s return home.   

***   

Andy stirred slightly as she felt something brush against her chin. She slowly blinked open her eyes and glanced down, noticing the blanket covering up her body that hadn’t been there before. Looking to her side, she saw the beautiful enthralling vision of Miranda Priestly, still in her champagne-colored cocktail dress but with her feet bare of heels, standing in front of the fireplace that now exuded the only warm, shadow-dancing, flickering light in the dark room.    

Tired hazel eyes gazed at the older woman, her stomach fluttered as she felt her heart beating in her chest, feeling an overwhelming sensation consume her. Andy absolutely couldn’t comprehend how fiercely she had fallen in love with Miranda. Try as she might, she simply couldn’t even begin to describe, or even understand, the emotion that now possessed her entire being. Her heart yearned painfully to reach out and show Miranda just how profoundly passionate she felt about her. If she allowed herself, she could cry because of the unattainable longing she felt, desiring nothing more from life than the woman standing just a few feet away from her, so close within her reach and yet so far away as if she was literally reaching for the stars.   

Miranda glanced over her shoulder seemingly sensing the brunette’s gaze on her as mystifying arctic blues captured love-struck hazel ones. The women continued to stare at each other for a long moment, with Andy trying to recover her sensible thoughts and Miranda being as unreadable as ever before.   

“I did not mean to wake you,” Miranda whispered in a  gentle voice.   

Andy smiled a tender smile. “That’s alright.” She sat up and held a hand over her mouth as she yawned. “I should be going anyway. Now that you’re home.” She said as she stood up from the couch.   

Miranda frowned. “No.” She said as she shook her head.   

Andy inclined her head to the side as she questioned. “No?”   

“No,” Miranda confirmed more sternly this time as she turned to fully face the younger woman. “I am not letting you go across the city at this time of night.”  

Andy looked up at the antique clock hanging on the wall above the fireplace to see it was well past midnight. “Oh.” She breathed, then shook her head. “It’s alright, Miranda. I don’t mind. I’ll just take a cab back home.”   

“No,” Miranda said once more as she walked over until she stood right in front of her. “You are welcome to stay in the guestroom on the first floor. It is down the hall.”  

Andy shook her head, ready to decline again for not wanting to intrude in the editor’s house any further than she’d already done. “Really, Miranda. It’s okay. It’s not-”   

“Andréa.” Miranda interrupted, a small hint of a plea lacing her soft voice. Arctic-turned-opal eyes intensely pierced Andy’s uncertain ones. Then, the light plea Andy thought she’d heard in Miranda’s tone was actually voiced in a whisper. “Please. Stay.”   

Andy felt as if an invisible force was squeezing her heart almost painfully at Miranda’s soft request. She smiled tenderly again, knowing she could never deny the woman she loved as she nodded once and whispered. “Alright.”    

The small earnest smile forming on Miranda’s lips and the unguarded gentleness in her opal eyes left Andy utterly breathless, then, in an instant, felt suddenly confused as Miranda glanced down, an uncertain look crossing over her face.   

“Miranda?” Andy queried softly as she bowed her head slightly to try and capture Miranda’s eyes again, then whispered. “Is everything alright?”   

Miranda looked up again, her eyes focused so deeply into Andy’s, it was as if she were trying to read what was inside the younger woman’s soul.   

After a heavily tensioned, blood rushing, and heart thrumming moment of silence, the intensity in Miranda’s gaze slowly diminished. “I-, I realized-, Andréa.” She shook her head slightly as she graced the brunette with an affectionate smile, making Andy  weak  in the knees. “I realized I had not thanked you yet, for taking care of my girls tonight.”   

Andy flashed her mega-watt smile, eyes blazing with loving fondness. “No thanks necessary, Miranda.” She breathed. “It has been my absolute delight and utmost pleasure to do so.”   

Miranda shook her head once more as she took a step forward until she was merely a hair’s  breadth  away and raised her hand to hold Andy’s chin between her thumb and index finger, making Andy tremble and breathless all over again.    

“Nevertheless,” Miranda whispered.  

Andy’s knees trembled as she felt Miranda’s breath ghost over her slightly parted lips. Miranda leaned in as she gently laid her soft lips onto Andy’s blushing cheek in a warm, lingering kiss.   

“Thank you.” The hot, whispered breath caressed Andy’s already heated skin once more in delectable delight.   

Before Andy could regain even the slightest amount of her equilibrium, Miranda had dropped her hand and walked past her. Leaving behind an almost fainting, entirely and deliciously love-induced, dazing brunette as her fingertips rested on the still burning spot where the silver-haired woman had touched her skin with those otherworldly, breath-stealing, heart-stopping lips.  

Chapter Text

The vexatious blaring of the alarm on her phone at an ungodly hour had Andy waking up with a tormented groan. She had barely slept at all last night as she lied awake, tossing and turning, even if it was in the most comfortable bed she’d ever had the luxury of sleeping in.    

Andy simply couldn’t get Miranda out of her head as she replayed the previous day’s interactions with her on a seemingly endless loop. It had been, by far, one of the best days she’d had since she started working at Runway. Andy adored how their banter seemed to flow so easily and light-heartedly between them. She couldn’t help but wonder if she had finally been able to accomplish the impossible by breaching one of Miranda’s endless, impenetrable walls. It certainly felt like she did.    

Her heart swooned as she recalled, in her mind’s eye, the many unguarded looks she had been graced with. Oh, how she loved Miranda’s endearing and tender smiles, the amusement and mirth glinting in beautiful arctic blues, and the wicked, yet playful looks when she teased and taunted.    

She couldn’t believe how privileged she was to have witnessed an entirely different side to the editor, to the so-called Devil in Heels. Miranda might be a true Dragon Lady at work and out in public, but the monikers she’d been given couldn’t have been further from the truth.    

Andy had witnessed and seen the adoring, loving and fiercely protective mother. She had seen the humorous and the delightfully whimsical side as they’d joshed with one another. But most of all, she had seen a side of Miranda she had never truly expected to reveal itself. It was mostly because of the latter that had Andy lying utterly restless in bed as her mind had swirled with pleasingly alluring, and yet utterly confusing thoughts.   

Once Andy had convinced herself that she hadn’t imagined things, or hadn’t been living in one of her daydreams, she had felt thoroughly thunderstruck and painstakingly bewildered. For she had seen and felt a certain intimacy exuding from Miranda.   

Her stomach fluttered as she brought Miranda’s intensely piercing gaze to mind. It hadn’t been the same one she received on a daily basis when they were at Runway. No, the way their eyes had captured one another yesterday had felt immensely more personal. Miranda hadn’t been looking at her assistant. She had been trying to see Andy, plain and simple Andy. Miranda had been observing and reading her as if she had been trying to see what was lurking inside of Andy’s mind, what she was feeling inside her soul.    

She was fairly certain that Miranda had been able to read her like an open book. Andy had entirely been living in the moment as her thoughts and feelings had consumed her rational mind. She hadn’t been thinking about masking and concealing her feelings for Miranda. She had simply absorbed the connection she felt flowing between them, needing everything Miranda was willing to give her like a drug. And it was exactly that what had caused Andy to be so utterly thunderstruck and bewildered.   

Miranda had, in fact, given her a dose of something, of herself. She had let Andy in to glimpse behind her business persona. She had lowered her walls so Andy could glance above them and interact with Miranda the woman, not Miranda the editor. And it was because of what Andy had seen that she was now thoroughly allured, yet confused.   

Miranda had shown the gaiety she felt because of Andy, she had shown the affection she held for her, she had shown the worry and protectiveness, and above all, she had shown a simmering intimacy. And it was the latter that Andy couldn’t fathom, couldn’t figure out.    

It had decidedly not felt as amicable reciprocity. The energy that had flowed between them was entirely too intense for that. The connection Andy felt was too electrifying, too magnetizing, too heated, and too rousing. Andy truly didn’t dare to believe it, but it almost felt too passionate. Naturally, Andy recognized it was because of the love she felt for Miranda, that it made her overly sensitive to their connection while absorbing these sensations flowing between them. Realizing that Miranda might’ve grasped at their affinity as well and that she, in fact, seemed to be affected by it, was something Andy couldn’t even begin to comprehend.   

And yet, there was a deeply hidden part inside of Andy that didn’t feel entirely surprised by the unveiling of emotions. Yesterday had not been the first time Andy came to realize that her presence around Miranda had affected the other woman in a seemingly more profound, yet concealed, way.    

Lying awake Andy had reminisced about all the enrapturing, spellbinding moments they had shared, about all the minutes, if not hours' worth of palpable tension that had ensnared them in a clandestine bubble of their own making. How they seemed to become one another’s prisoners when their eyes constrained each other, capturing their souls in captivating confinement.    

It was in the early hours of the morning that Andy’s mind had suddenly exploded. Seemingly bombarded by the revelation of her epiphany that Miranda might, in fact, feel something for her. But it was the ‘what exactly’ of it all that Andy needed to unravel. Andy was aching to find out what it was that Miranda might be feeling for her, but she wasn’t entirely sure as to how she should embark upon this excavation.    

Andy was no fool, she knew she couldn’t simply walk up to Miranda and ask her what she truly saw in Andy. The change in their relationship was too recent and still too fragile, too much of the older woman was still locked away, Miranda was still undoubtedly too closed off about her emotions. Too much of her was still hidden away behind all of her defensive fortifications. They had not yet established that level of trust to earnestly and openly talk about their feelings.   

Nevertheless, Andy needed to know. She needed to discover and determine if she actually had any semblance of a chance with Miranda. Knowing that if she genuinely and beyond any doubt did, she’d unwaveringly go in an all-out war to breach Miranda's impenetrable fortress. She’d vanquish any lingering doubts and passionately conquer and triumphantly obtain the world’s most valuable treasure. She’d invade and secure Miranda's heart.   

But for now, an all-out war would be an unmitigated mistake in her strategy. Andy needed to scout out the outskirts of Miranda’s frontier first. To find the weaknesses in the unpredictable terrain and unyielding barriers until she found the chink in Miranda’s armor where she would fortify her position, build up her arsenal with insight by surveilling and through reconnaissance into Miranda’s unguarded openings.   

Andy laid out her game plan and today, at this godforsaken hour, would be her first venturing approach to unearth Miranda’s receptivity and responsiveness towards her.   

After taking a quick, heavenly rain shower in the marvelous en suite of the guest bedroom, Andy dressed up in the Armani t-shirt Miranda had given her and the True Religion jeans she’d worn to work, hoping she’d have enough time to spare to go home and change into something more appropriate before going into work after she finished making breakfast for Miranda and the twins.   

It was still dark outside at six in the morning as she glanced out of the kitchen windows. However, she had an inkling that it wouldn’t be long before Miranda came down to begin another long working day. So, first things first, she turned on and fumbled with the fanciest coffee machine she’d ever seen since she expected a hot cup of coffee would be one of the first things Miranda would crave in the early mornings. Next, she perused the fridge, gathering up several ingredients she needed to make a spinach with mushroom omelet to serve with toast and fruits to make a fresh salad. As she was cutting up the last bits of an apple to mix it up with the rest of the diced pieces of fruit in a bowl, Andy heard the tell-tale sound of Miranda’s heels coming down the stairs. She quickly washed and dried her hands before reaching for a mug she’d found earlier in one of the cabinets and walked over to the coffee maker.   

“Andréa?”   

Even though Andy knew that Miranda was closing in on her, her heart nevertheless skipped a beat when she heard the surprised query of her name being called in a voice that was still a bit hoarse from sleep. Turning around with a steaming mug, she flashed her mega-watt smile as she locked eyes with an exquisitely dressed and made-up Miranda.   

“Good morning, Miranda.” Andy inclined her head towards the bar of the kitchen island. “C’mon, have a seat. Let me spoil you with breakfast and naturally,” Andy raised her hand that was holding the mug and winked. “A center-of-the-sun, freshly brewed coffee.”   

Andy inwardly grinned when Miranda did what she was told as she walked over to sit on one of the bar stools with a slightly stunned look on her face.   

When Miranda sat down, she shook her head as if shaking off her bewilderment at finding Andy running her kitchen. Andy walked over until she stood behind and to the side of her, her chest almost touching Miranda's shoulder as she leaned forward to place the mug in front of her on the counter. Before pulling back, she turned her head, almost close enough to whisper in Miranda's ear as she nearly purred. “Enjoy.”   

With an almighty effort, Andy had to suppress a smirk as she noticed, due to their close proximity, Miranda’s nearly imperceptible little gasp. Sensing Miranda’s eyes on her, Andy moved away to stand back on the other side of the counter while she busied herself with preparing a plate for Miranda, and one for herself. She looked up when she heard Miranda’s soft, pleased hum as she took a sip of her coffee, nodding once before observing Andy again.   

“You are up rather early, seeing as you have an entire breakfast prepared. But you need not have done all this, Andréa.” Miranda said, then took another sip from her mug.   

“I know.” Andy smiled as she shrugged her shoulders. “But I wanted to. Sort of as a thank you for yesterday, and for allowing me to stay the night. I understand that that’s an offer you don’t make lightly.”   

Miranda frowned in confusion as she questioned. “Thanking me for what exactly?”   

“Well.” Andy leaned in closer on her forearms which were resting on the counter. “I know you had asked me to watch the twins for you, but nevertheless, I had a wonderful time yesterday.” She smiled her most genuine, heartfelt smile. “So, I guess what I’m really trying to say is thank you for trusting me and allowing me to spend time with them. Once again, I understand that that’s something you don’t take lightly.”   

Miranda blinked the confused frown away as her gaze intensified while staring deep into Andy’s eyes. Andy kept her soul open for Miranda to peruse, wanting her to see the sincerity she felt. After a long moment, Andy watched in secret delight as Miranda’s features softened, a small smile gracing her lips.   

“I see. In that case, you are welcome, Andréa. However, there is no need to thank me for allowing you to stay the night since I explicitly told you to stay.” Miranda’s gentle smile faded into an austere stare. “I would not have allowed you to travel across town at that time of night either way.”   

Andy felt slightly taken aback by Miranda’s sudden no-nonsense tone. She couldn’t help but question Miranda's obstinate demeanor about the subject. “Why though? You know I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself and getting home as well. It wouldn’t have been the first time I had to go out at night to do or get something you needed for work.”   

Keeping her eyes trained on Miranda, Andy noticed how she clutched the fork she was holding a little tighter as her jaw tensed, feeling dismayed as Miranda’s features hardened into her steely, indecipherable look as she gazed down into her coffee mug. A long moment of heavy silence passed between them with Andy mentally cursing at herself for venturing too far out of Miranda's comfort zone.    

Right when Andy was about to apologize, she watched as Miranda placed the fork down on the table, eyes looking up from under long lashes, seizing Andy’s again as she said in a barely audible, yet austere voice. “This had nothing to do with work, Andréa.” She paused for a moment, seemingly in hesitation. “This had been something entirely more personal.”   

Andy offered a tender smile as she sat back in her seat. Suddenly her smile faltered while she lowered her gaze in ambiguity as a memory of what Miranda had once said to her returned to the forefront of her mind.  

‘My life is my own, which you are irrevocably no part of. You are simply an unworthy assistant, here to do my bidding and fetch when I need fetching like the good little lapdog that you are. I do not want nor need your aggravating meddling into my personal affairs in what you might assume to think is for my benefit. Is your brain really that deficient that you are not able to comprehend that I simply need you to do  your job ?’      

“Andréa? Is something the matter?” Miranda questioned softly as she  thoroughly  contemplated the brunette.   

“Oh.” Andy shook her head, trying to shake off her reminiscing moment. “Nothing.” She smiled but knew it wasn’t earnestly reaching her ears.   

The raising of an immaculate eyebrow was all Andy needed to know that Miranda didn’t believe her for a moment.   

Miranda's soft voice turned sternly as she questioned lowly. “You would not dare and lie to me now, would you, Andréa?”    

Andy gulped, then chuckled half-heartedly. “Really, Miranda. It’s entirely irrelevant now.” She looked down again as she whispered. “Time changes things... I had hoped.”   

This time, it was Miranda who leaned forward on her arms as she ventured further. “What did time change, Andréa? What did you hope for?”   

Andy let out a heavy, defeated sigh. “You’re not going to drop this, are you?”   

Smirking wickedly, Miranda answered. “When have you known me to ever give up, Andréa?”   

Andy smiled, letting out an honest chuckle this time as she nodded, but once again faltered at the thought of voicing her memory. “Well-,” She began warily. “It’s just that-, y’know, things have been gradually becoming-, different between-, us.” She paused as she glanced up at Miranda’s intensely watchful gaze.    

Receiving a nod, Andy continued, feeling how her heart picked up speed as it thrummed against her chest. “I just-, I distinctly remember a time where you adamantly wouldn’t have tolerated me having anything to do with your-, well-, with your personal life.” She shrugged shyly. “I guess living on hope does pay off sometimes.”   

Miranda raised her eyebrows in a bewildering way. “What do you mean by that?”   

Andy rubbed at the back of her neck in her nervous manner. “I’d just hoped that-, well-, I guess I’d just hoped that we could do-, this.” She gestured her hand back and forth between them.   

“This?” Miranda questioned as she inclined her head to the side.   

“Yeah, y’know. Talk. I wanted to converse with you.” Andy chuckled as she shook her head. “Without wanting to bite each other’s head off, that is.”   

“Hm.” Miranda hummed as she interlaced her fingers and rested her chin upon the back of her hands, a diabolical look on her face. “You were a rather annoyingly cheeky and exasperatingly conceited little assistant back then, most definitely.”   

“Hey! Watch it.” Andy chaffed with a smirk. “You were  at least  ten times worse if you recall.” She jested as she crossed her arms over her chest and huffed.   

“Yes, well.” Miranda sniffed. “Let us leave the past where it belongs, shall we?”   

Andy couldn’t help but grin wickedly as she leaned forward again, then said in a low, teasing voice. “Does that mean we have a future, Miranda?”   

It took all the self-restraint Andy possessed and more to not lunge over the counter and kiss Miranda then and there as she felt utterly bewitched by the blush creeping up Miranda’s neck.   

She felt positively enamored as Miranda cleared her throat and teased back with a playful smirk. “Keep supplying me with my always perfect cup of coffee and we shall see.”   

Andy laughed heartily and flashed her mega-watt smile as she winked. “You needn’t ever worry about that. You can count on me, boss.”   

Still smirking, Miranda rolled her eyes good-naturedly as she finished the rest of her coffee.   

Chuckling, Andy glanced over at the clock on the wall, eyes widening. “Oh! I have to go. I need to hurry if I want to make it into work on time.”   

Miranda frowned as she questioned. “Why? Even if you were up at the crack of dawn, certainly your brain must have been able to comprehend that you can ride along with me. Or are you suffering from young-onset dementia and have somehow forgotten that we work together, Andréa?”   

Andy couldn’t help but giggle at Miranda’s sarcastic wit and the fact that she hadn’t realized what she’d said.   

Miranda raised an incredulous eyebrow. “What could I have possibly said to have you tittering like that?”   

Andy smirked playfully as she leaned forward once more and taunted. “Since when do we work  together , Miranda?”   

Miranda frowned, seemingly not understanding what Andy was implying.   

Gathering Miranda’s half-empty plate onto hers, Andy explained, trying to hide her mirth. “I thought I’d been working  for  you up until now. As a matter of fact, I thought everyone at Runway works  for  you.”   

Andy shook her head as she grinned. “No, scratch that. I thought everyone within the fashion industry works  for  you. Never  with  you.”   

Andy’s playful smirk grew teasingly darker. “Or have I suddenly become an exception to that hallowed testimony, Miranda?”   

Miranda rolled her eyes as she let out a snort. “You are entirely too ridiculous for your own good, Andréa.”   

Shrugging, Andy acceded. “Can’t deny that. You either take me lying down or you don’t.”    

As soon as those words left Andy’s mouth, she blinked as she realized what she’d said. Feigning a look of innocence, she glanced up, fully expecting Miranda not to have noticed the double entendre within her statement with a look of aloof indifference on her face. So, it came as an unanticipated surprise when her eyes were captured by Miranda’s intensely piercing gaze.   

It was futile to fight against her impending blush, feeling her skin heat up, and her heart suddenly going into overdrive as a mental picture flashed within her mind of Miranda doing exactly that, of lying on top of Andy while taking her body and inevitably her mind and soul, with the exact same penetrative scorching look Miranda was bounding her with now.    

Suddenly, all the familiar sensations washed over and enraptured Andy once again as she felt the air thicken inside the  bubble  she found herself in with Miranda. The temperature in the room raised by several degrees as the hot air seemed to clash and electrify, causing the tiny hairs on her body to stand to attention.   

This time, instead of letting herself drown in the sensations that were consuming her, she tried to focus on the origin that was causing them, tried to detect any changes in Miranda’s poised composure.   

Andy watched as arctic skipped opal, turning into ocean blue, only now perceiving that was by cause of the dilation of Miranda’s pupils. Only now discerning that the skin under the lightly applied blush on Miranda’s cheekbones seemed to darken the overall tint of the rose petal pink hue. Only now conceiving that Miranda’s inhale of breath ascended to her chest as her breathing deepened, as well as the slightly faster pace in rhythm.   

Only now comprehending that the clues she had been craving for to decipher her effect on Miranda had been right in front of her eyes all along.   

Andy also acknowledged that it would not have been obvious to ascertain if you hadn’t been looking for any telltale indications. After all, Miranda was the reigning champion in meticulously keeping her cool and calculated composure as well as the titleholder in keeping up her fortifying masked appearances. Every look was purposefully intentioned and every move was deliberately executed, both carried out and performed with utmost perfection.    

So, it came as absolutely no surprise whatsoever that Miranda, seemingly within the blink of an eye, reeled in and barricaded the restraints on her self-consciousness and rationality once more.   

The curtains of the windows to her soul closed with such vehemence, consequently rupturing their bubble, and inevitably releasing Andy from their linking spell.    

In one swift motion, Miranda stood up from the barstool, her cold eyes staring Andy down as she spoke with her soft but conscientiously controlled voice. “I have to wake up the girls, but I will find you something to wear and leave it in the guest bedroom so you can change. Even if you were to leave now, you would still never be able to make it into work in time.”   

Andy nodded as she gathered up their dishes and empty mugs. “Alright. I’ll just prepare some plates for the girls.” Trying to lighten the somewhat uncomfortable tension between them, she jested. “And I’m truly grateful for the ride, Miranda. My boss would’ve probably fired me if I were to be late. She absolutely detests tardiness.”    

“Hm.” Miranda hummed, her face still as indifferent as ever. “Well, aren’t you fortunate then?” And with that, Miranda turned around and left.   

***   

The two women were seated in the back of the town car while they were on their way to Runway. Andy’s mind swirled in puzzlement as she, once again, tried to solve the mystery of the enigma that is Miranda Priestly. Right when Andy finally figured out another intricate piece of the complex, labyrinthine puzzle, naturally, Miranda had to raise and fortify her defenses anew since their distinctive little moment during breakfast.    

Andy had absolutely no clue whatsoever as to what Miranda was thinking. Granted, she’d discovered a couple of little telltales of the effect she had on Miranda, but what was it exactly that had been swirling through her mind at that moment. What was it that Miranda thought of her, or how she felt about her?    

When it came to Miranda’s thoughts and emotions, she was the perfect equivalence to a closed book, a book that had several latches and chains securing it adamantly shut, keeping its contents safe and hidden from the world, stowed away in a tungsten metal chest that was locked and bolted, that not even a nuclear explosion would be able to crack open. However, Andy knew that one of the keys she needed to unlock Miranda would be patience, and another one would be understanding.    

If she was indeed correct about Miranda thinking something more of her than just her assistant, then she understood that it would take time for Miranda to come to terms with it, as well as understanding that Miranda’s position was not a fact that she could ignore. Miranda was, after all, her boss, and in the middle of a divorce, and those were just a few facts from the tip of the iceberg that consisted of their unlikely situation.    

Miranda had every right to close herself off as she did. There was simply too much at stake for the editor, and Andy needed to tread about their circumstances as if she were navigating a minefield. She needed to be patient and show Miranda that she could be trusted to the core, wanted her to know that she could put her faith in Andy and that she did not need to doubt the fact that Andy would guard it with her life.   

Andy would also prove that she was no ignorant fool, that she understood the dire consequences if even insignificant, nonsensical speculations were to go around. She would show Miranda that she understood the possibility of their jobs being on the line, and it wasn’t just Miranda’s job, it was her reputation as well. Something Miranda had worked strenuously and vigorously for to develop, obtain, and reign, for well over twenty years of her life.   

Thus, all would come to light in due time. For the time being, all Andy could do was to make sure that no curious stares would glance their way because of the abnormality of them arriving at work together, and deflect any sense of an uncomfortable awkwardness about their situation.   

When the car started to slow down before stopping in front of the Elias-Clarke building, Andy turned to face Miranda and spoke up with a reassuring smile on her face. “I’ll just head out across the street to pick up your coffee. That way, people won’t think anything peculiar about us going into work together.”   

Miranda gave her a long, incomprehensible stare before she nodded curtly, then turned and gracefully stepped out of the car when the driver opened the door for her. Andy watched her go until she disappeared inside the building, thinking that her life had never been so complicated before and that the growing complexity of their relationship wasn’t even remotely close to its supremacy, not by a long shot.  

Chapter Text

Hiya, darlings!

 

I'm just checking in with you lovely lot that are following my story.

I'm really sorry that I haven't been able to post a chapter this week.

I've been busy at work + several things I needed to do and take care of.

Unfortunately, I don't have much time this weekend either.

Trust me, I really wish I had some time to continue writing.

So, in case some of you were worrying, since I usually update a new chapter within a couple of days, I just wanted to put your beautiful minds at ease.

I know there are a lot of stories out there that are just being abruptly left unfinished.

I can't tell you how many times I've been disappointed and frankly been burned right in the ass by them.

I just wanted to share that that's something I will definitely not be doing to all of you.

When I start something I'm passionate about, I see it through to the end.

So, have no fear when it takes me a bit longer to update. It just means that I haven't had the time to write. 

Anyway, darlings, I'll have the next chapter up sometime next week. 

& Thank you so much for your patience and all the lovely comments. Can't tell you how delighted they make me!

 

In the meantime,

If you have some ideas or desires that you'd really like to see happening in this story, I'm open to suggestions!

Your thoughts are certainly more than welcome and I promise I'll take them into consideration or discuss them with you.

Just a penny for your thoughts ;)

 

Anyway,

Have a lovely Easter weekend! 

& you'll hear from me soon enough.

Oh! & I just saw that we've hit the 400 kudos mark a minute ago! That's pretty cool! 

An almighty thank you for reading and sticking with my story.

Toodeloo! <3

Chapter Text

Andy sat restlessly on her couch as she mindlessly switched through channels on the TV in a futile attempt to distract herself from the encompassing thoughts of a certain silver-haired woman. It was Saturday afternoon, a couple of days after she’d stayed the night at the townhouse and she’d been slightly sulking ever since.   

An unforeseen change had occurred in Miranda’s demeanor towards Andy after they’d shared breakfast together in Miranda’s kitchen. Unfortunately, it was as if the past couple of weeks where they’d started to grow more at ease around one another had just gone up and vanished with the wind, leaving an unfulfilling absence in its place. 

However, Andy tried to understand that Miranda most likely needed some time to get her thoughts, perhaps even her feelings, in order. Their time at the townhouse had been a rather unusual evening and morning for the both of them. The barriers that are ensnaring them in their working relationship had started to blur, which had conceived a conception that had led them to interact with one another in a way they hadn’t been able to do until now. Andy had been utterly thrilled about the development but now, not so much anymore. She couldn’t shake off the feeling that their progress had unsettled Miranda in a way, apparently making her feel uncomfortable around the assistant.  

Thus, since their car ride going into work together, it seemed as if Miranda had been pulling away, seemingly trying to distance herself from Andy. Every conversation for the past couple of days had been void of any friendly banter flowing between them, everything had been strictly work-related, with Miranda shifting back to her usual cold and indifferent self. When they’d been alone during car rides, Miranda had refrained from delivering any witty remarks about her staff’s incompetence or about the so-called abominable sins when something wasn’t to the editor’s preferences. Those had been the interactions that Andy had been growing rather fond of over the past couple of weeks. Andy had even tried to strike up light-hearted conversations with her, but every attempt had been in vain with Miranda’s disinterested curt responses paired with a look of utter boredom to whatever Andy had been saying. Andy had tried to not let her disappointment and her saddening heart show as she turned her head to look outside of the car window every time Miranda had brushed her off.  

Although Miranda’s detachment was disheartening Andy, she knew she had absolutely no right to be upset about it. Andy understood Miranda’s reluctance to cross any more professional boundaries. She acknowledged that it was due to Miranda’s position as her boss that it was her obligation and consequently the right thing to do to keep things strictly professional between them.   

And yet, Andy couldn’t settle for the feeling that this was the last thing she wanted for their growing affinity. She wanted Miranda to feel comfortable around her, she wanted her to know that there was no need to be worried because Andy understood all of the risks and complications involving the prospect of any change of circumstances between them, even if it was simply them becoming more friendly with each other.  

The more Andy pondered about the restraints that were separating them, the more frustrated she became, feeling as if this was currently the biggest obstacle that she was faced with. She couldn’t figure out how to overcome the fact that they were still very much cemented in their employer-employee dynamic. Apart from the little moments they had shared at the townhouse earlier this week, which now seemed like they hadn’t mattered at all, it felt like they hadn’t even made the slightest step forward to grow closer in a more personal sense, where it would be alright and more serene to talk about their thoughts and feelings that weren’t work-related.  

Andy was longing to build and establish a steadier foundation of open communication between them, where they could learn to trust one another in a more substantial value. But such an endeavor in itself was something Andy couldn’t figure out as to how to go about it. She didn’t think Miranda would appreciate it even in the slightest if she were to suddenly call her during the weekend to talk about everything and nothing.  

But how else could she reach out to Miranda and show her that she wanted to interact with her, that she wanted to get to know her better? Every attempt at work had been grimly cold-shouldered and Andy was sure if she tried to push harder on that front that it would only invoke Miranda’s irritation which was something she wanted to avoid at all costs in fear of them taking even more steps back in their unlikely situation.  

At the very least, Andy could still call herself extremely fortunate that Miranda hadn’t rebounded to being condescendingly cruel towards her. Hence, that was something that gave Andy hope that things were still, in a sense, alright between them.  

So, what else could she do to venture forward in the unpredictable terrain surrounding Miranda’s fortress? How could she make Miranda see that she wasn’t a threat to be wary about, but an ally she could depend on? She needed to find some sort of common ground where Miranda could lower her defenses and where Andy didn’t need to equip herself with all sorts of tools that were meant for the purpose of invading. So, what could possibly be a common topic for them to talk about that wouldn’t unsettle Miranda? What had been something of a mutual understanding between them that Miranda had trusted her with and had opened herself up to converse about?  

Suddenly, Andy blinked, feeling rather stupid for not thinking about it sooner since the answer was utterly obvious. But was it really such a good idea? Wasn’t it too much of a dangerous stretch for Andy to advance on? Andy shook her head, knowing it was the only option that was available to her and knowing that it was, in fact, something Miranda had trusted her with that held significant meaning to both of them.  

Deciding to take the risk, to take the leap of faith, Andy reached out for her phone on the coffee table. Concluding that it was still better to play it safe, she forwent on calling Miranda directly and chose to send a text message instead.  

Hi Miranda,  
I was wondering how the twins’ soccer match went this morning?  
They were rather excited when they told me about it.  
Have a nice weekend.  

Andy nibbled nervously on the nail of her thumb, pondering if she wasn’t about to make a colossal mistake. As much as Andy wanted to converse with Miranda, she also earnestly wanted to know how the twins’ match went. Before giving herself a chance to talk herself out of it, she hit the “send” button, praying that she’d made the right choice and hopefully killing two birds with one stone through this reckless endeavor.  

She waited for a couple of minutes, turning into several, causing her nerves to wreak havoc in the pit of her stomach. When no response was forthcoming after fifteen minutes, Andy had worked herself into a crazed anxious snit where she was pacing back and forth in front of her couch, bordering on a complete nervous meltdown where she wanted to hit her head against a wall for being so utterly stupid and thinking that it was even remotely okay to casually send Miranda a message.  

After twenty minutes, Andy nearly jumped out of her own skin as her phone suddenly ringed with an incoming text. She warily eyed her phone on the couch, and with slightly trembling fingers, she reached out and grabbed it, her breath caught in her throat when she saw that it was, in fact, Miranda that had texted her back.   

Andy took a deep breath and went to sit down again. Steeling her nerves, she opened up Miranda’s message.  

The twins’ match went well. They won, naturally.   

Andy exhaled a deep breath that she didn’t know she was holding, then laughed as she shook her head, thinking that that was as much of a typical response Miranda could’ve sent her. Even though Miranda’s reply didn’t imply in the slightest that she wanted to talk any further, Andy decided to play her luck for not having been entirely shut down once more. Biting on her lower lip, Andy apprehensively typed out another message.  

That’s great! Will you congratulate them for me?  
I’d appreciate it.  

After five minutes of fidgeting with her phone, Andy nearly fell off the couch as it suddenly started buzzing and blaring an all too familiar ringtone. Glancing at the screen, Andy immediately hit the answer button, knowing with reverence that Miranda detests it when she has to wait longer than two rings.  

“Miranda,” Andy released a nervous breath, then added. “Hi.”  

“Hello, Andréa,” Miranda’s soft voice caressed Andy’s ear, causing a shiver to run up her spine.   

“Hi,” Andy said stupidly again, slapping a hand to her forehead as she shook her head at herself. “Sorry,” She mumbled. “I already said that. I-, I just didn’t expect you to call.”  

The shiver that had run down Andy’s spine seemed to reappear in her stomach as it fluttered when Miranda lightly chuckled. “Yes, well. I just thought that you might want to congratulate the girls yourself. They said that they wanted to call and tell you about their game. Is now a good time?” 

Andy blinked at Miranda’s question, then nodded even though she couldn’t see her. “Sure! I mean, of course, yes. Now’s as good a time as any. I’d like that.” She slapped her forehead once more for sounding like a complete moron.  

“Very well,” Miranda said and Andy couldn’t help but smile at Miranda’s gentle tone. “I will put you on speaker.”  

Within the blink of an eye, Andy had to hold the phone away from her ear as two excited squealing shrieks blasted over the line.  

“Andyy!!”   

Andy laughed, her nerves evaporating at hearing the twins call out to her. “Hiya, kiddos! I heard you got some good news to share.”  

The slightly higher voice of Caroline answered first. “We beat those losers three-to-two. I scored two times! Naturally, I’m the best player on our team.”  

In the background, Andy could hear Miranda scolding Caroline for her use of language. Grinning, Andy responded. “That’s amazing, Caroline. I wish I could’ve seen it.”  

“I scored the last goal.” Cassidy chimed in. “It was our best game so far.”  

“I’m so proud of you guys,” Andy said. “I remember back when I used to play how thrilling it was to score the winning point. I’m sure you two must be ecstatic.”  

“You used to play?!” Caroline asked enthusiastically.  

“Sure did,” Andy nodded as she reminisced, looking up at the ceiling. “All the way from high school through college. Our matches are some of my favorite memories from school.”  

Caroline chuckled wickedly. “You’d still be no match for me. I’m sure I’d beat you, hands down.”  

Andy scoffed playfully. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that, kiddo. I was pretty good back in the day.”  

“Exactly,” Caroline joshed. “Back in the day, as in, you’re way too old to come even remotely close to being a worthy opponent for me.”  

“I’d be careful if I were you, kid. It’s unwise to underestimate me,” Andy joshed back.  

Cassidy laughed as she said, “I’m sorry, Andy. But I’m putting my money on Care this time.”  

Andy rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “Gee, thanks, Cass. I thought I could at least count on you for support.”  

Cassidy giggled as she said, “Well, considering you tripped over your own feet during your dance-off with Care, it'd be pretty foolish of me in thinking that you can beat my sister in what she does best.” 

Andy laughed. “Ouch, touché, kid. Even though it was your mother’s fault for distracting me, y’know. I would’ve won that game otherwise.”  

Caroline chimed in again. “Seeing is believing, Andy. So, what d’ya say? You wanna prove you have the spine in besting me and my sis in a game of soccer? Or are you too chicken, knowing you’ll lose to two little girls, huh?”  

Shaking her head, Andy challenged. “Oh, you just name the time and place, kid. I’m not one to back down from a challenge, y’know.”  

The twins laughed, then Caroline said. “Wanna make a bet? If we win, you’re treating us to ice cream and loads of our favorite candy.”  

Andy giggled. “If your mother’s okay with it, then sure. But what do I get when I win?”  

“We’ll get you a box of your favorite donuts. How does that sound?” Cassidy asked gleefully.  

Suddenly, Miranda’s voice in the background reached Andy’s ear. “Good God, I am surrounded by sugar-crazed children.”  

Andy couldn’t help but let out a boisterous laugh. “You’re on, kiddos. Be sure to include a lot of chocolate ones when you’re getting me that box.”  

“In your dreams, Andy,” Caroline joshed. “Be here tomorrow after lunch, can’t wait to mop the floor with you.”  

Andy blinked at that. “Oh, I-, uhm. Tomorrow? Is-, is your mother, y’know. Did you ask your mother if that’d be alright?”  

“Mom!” The twins chorused loudly.   

“There is absolutely no need to be shouting, Bobbseys. I heard it all.” Miranda said and Andy could practically see her rolling her eyes. “You may invite Andréa over if you wish. I would not mind seeing her plummet to the ground as a klutz again.”  

“Hey!” Andy laughed. “Last time was an accident, I’ll have you know.” She then turned serious as she asked. “Are you sure it’s okay, Miranda? I don’t wish to impose if it makes you uncomfortable.”  

A response wasn’t directly forthcoming as Andy heard a mumble of voices through the speaker.  

After a minute, Miranda spoke up again. “It is quite alright, Andréa. The twins have nothing else planned for tomorrow, and I find myself in a position where I cannot say no to them.”  

Andy grinned as she asked. “Are they looking up at you with pouting lips and wide puppy-dog eyes?” 

“Ah,” Miranda chuckled. “Seems like you have already been on the receiving end of their pleading assailment.”  

“Sure have,” Andy laughed. “Caved every time when they’d fixed those stares at me.”  

Miranda sniffed. “They are lucky that I still consider them babies. Once they are teenagers, however, they will have to devise better negotiating tactics if they will want something.”  

In the background, Andy heard the twins groaning as they called out to their mother for calling them babies. 

Grinning, Andy said. “Oh, be careful what you wish for, Miranda. I’m sure they’ll come up with endless strategies once they’ll reach that age. They are your children, after all.”  

Andy felt her heart brimming with happiness as Miranda chuckled. “Yes, I am afraid you are right about that. They are far too cunning for their age.”  

“They most certainly are,” Andy nodded, then asked. “Alright, what time should I come over? Caroline mentioned after lunch?”  

The line was silent for a moment, apart from Andy hearing the twins chattering with one another in the background. Right when Andy was about to ask Miranda if she was still there, Miranda spoke up softly.  

“You are welcome to join us for lunch if you wish. In that case, you may come around at noon.”  

“Oh,” Andy blinked once more. “Are-, are you sure? I mean-, I don’t want to, y’know, intrude if-”  

“Andréa,” Miranda interrupted curtly.  

Andy winced, then asked. “Yes, Miranda?”  

Then, Miranda said with a gentle voice. “Be here at twelve.”  

Letting out a sigh of relief, Andy smiled. “Yes, Miranda.”  

“Good,” Miranda said and Andy could just picture her nodding once as she said that. “I will see you tomorrow then, Andréa.”  

Andy replied softly. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Miranda. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday.”  

“And you as well,” Miranda said, then suddenly, the line went dead.  

Andy laughed at that, thinking that some things will never change. 

***  

Andy shivered, both from the cold and the sudden onslaught of nerves as she stood waiting in front of the door to the townhouse. She let out a shaky breath, which was suddenly caught in her throat as the door opened and her eyes locked with Miranda’s intense gaze. The two women were silent for a moment, seemingly trying to read one another’s thoughts as if they were unsure as to how to proceed. When Andy visibly shivered again, this time it had nothing to do with the cold, Miranda blinked and spurred into action as she took a step back.  

Miranda gestured slightly with her head as she said. “Come on in, Andréa.”   

Andy smiled shyly as she breathed. “Thank you.”  

Miranda closed the door behind her once Andy stepped through the threshold and they stood facing each other once more. The silence between them was brimming with awkward tension, and Andy absolutely hated it. Wanting to ease the uncomfortable energy, Andy spoke up.  

“So, where are the-”  
“Let me take your-” Miranda said simultaneously.  

Andy rubbed at the back of her neck and Miranda crossed her arms over her waist as they talked over each other again.  

“I’ll just hang it in-”  
“They are in the back-”  

Andy let out a defeated sigh as she averted her eyes from Miranda. “I’m sorry,” She said timidly.  

Miranda frowned as she questioned. “What for?”  

Andy nibbled nervously on her lower lip before she hesitantly said. “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.” 

Miranda’s frown deepened as she started to rub over one of her arms that was still holding onto her waist. “What are you talking about?”  

Apprehensively looking up into Miranda’s eyes again, Andy spoke softly. “I’m-, sorry for-, y’know.” She inhaled deeply before she continued. “It’s sort of obvious that-, well, that my presence is making you uncomfortable, I guess.” She looked down at her fidgeting hands as she admitted in a whisper. “That’s the last thing I want.”  

A heavy silence enveloped them once more for an excruciating moment, causing Andy to grow more insecure with every second that passed.  

Sighing again, Andy conceded. “Maybe I should just-”  

“No,” Miranda interrupted.  

Andy looked up at that, noticing the uncertain glint in Miranda’s eyes.  

It was Miranda’s turn to sigh as she shook her head. “This is ridiculous.”  

Andy frowned as she inclined her head to the side. “What is?”  

“This,” Miranda rolled her eyes as she gestured between them. “First of all,” She said as she crossed her arms over her chest, but this time in an aggravated manner. “I do not get uncomfortable, Andréa.”  

Andy had to vigorously refrain herself from scoffing at Miranda’s statement.  

“Second of all,” Miranda continued, her eyes narrowing at the sudden tension in Andy’s jaw. “I do not see a reason why you suddenly think something has to be problematic between-, us.”  

Andy couldn’t stop her scoff this time. “Why think? Me? You’re kidding me, right?”  

Miranda’s eyes turned bitterly cold as she sneered. “I do not kid, Andréa.”  

Andy couldn’t stop herself from rolling her eyes either. “Except that you do, Miranda. Or at least, you used to. Until you suddenly decided to make things unnecessarily weird between us.”  

“I did nothing of-” Miranda began but Andy interrupted her.  

“Oh, don’t be thickheaded now, Miranda,” Andy closed her eyes once those words left her lips. Rubbing her palm against her forehead, she took a deep, steadying breath as she tried to reel in her temper. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”  

Miranda huffed indignantly. “At least that is something we can agree on.”  

Andy bit down on the tip of her tongue to refrain herself from saying something again that would worsen the situation. “I’m sorry,” She said again. “My mouth just gets the better of me sometimes.” 

Miranda rolled her eyes once more as if she were talking to an idiot. “Tell me something I do not know.”  

Andy groaned as she looked heavenward, sending up a silent prayer that she would be able to keep her temper in check. Looking into Miranda’s cold gaze, Andy tried to explain with a gentle voice.  

“Look, Miranda. Please, believe me when I say that I’m not accusing you of anything.”  

Miranda scoffed, causing Andy’s eye to twitch before she continued. “I’ve been trying to talk to you this week, trying to ease this sudden tension between us. It’s just that-, you’ve been brushing me off ever since. And I don’t understand why you’re suddenly pulling away from me. I just want to know if-, y’know, if I said, or did something that’s causing you to distance yourself from me.” The tension around Andy’s eyes softened, a saddening glint glimmering in them. “Because that’s-, well, that’s just-, it’s making me-”  

“Andyy!!” The twins screamed, causing both women to flinch.  

Andy turned around, just in time to steady herself and catch the girls who flung themselves at her. She chuckled affectionately as she hugged them back.  

“Hiya, kiddos. Bursting with energy, I see.”  

Caroline was bouncing up and down as she giggled. “Just can’t wait to kick your butt!”  

“Caroline. Language,” Miranda scolded, causing the girl to roll her eyes.  

Cassidy chuckled as she grinned enthusiastically. “We’ve set everything up in our backyard, and we’ve been warming up too. I hope you’ve brought lots of candy, because there’s no way you’ll beat us, Andy.”  

Andy laughed as she shook her head. “We’ll see about that, kid. Just because you’re tiny doesn’t mean I’ll go easy on you.”  

Miranda spoke up then. “Before you children decide to roughhouse and destroy my garden, we will have lunch. Girls, go and clean up first.”  

“Yes, Mom,” They chorused before stomping their way up the stairs, generating another eye-roll from Miranda.  

Andy shrugged off her coat as she warily eyed the older woman. “Look, I’m really sorry if-”  

“Not now, Andréa,” Miranda sighed, then stepped forward and took the coat from Andy’s hands. Her indecipherable gaze pierced Andy’s uncertain look for another moment. A minuscule shift happened, slightly softening Miranda’s features as she said. “Let us just forget about it, for now. We will talk later if you wish.”  

Andy nodded, smiling slightly as she breathed. “Alright.”  

***  

Lunch went fairly well, all things considered. The twins did most of the talking, relaying yesterday’s match in an attempt to intimidate the brunette. Andy returned the favor by telling them about some of the victories she’d had when she used to play but to no avail. If anything, the twins seemed to be getting only more fired up when she told them that her college team had made it to nationals in her second year.  

Andy laughed at the twins’ challenging looks. “I see competitiveness runs in the family, huh?”  

Miranda spoke up for the first time since they’d sat down around the kitchen table. “It is only natural that my blood excels in everything that we do.”  

Andy grinned mischievously. “Oh, really? So, if I were to challenge you to a hot-dog eating contest, can you say, without a doubt, that you’ll come out as the victor?”  

Miranda sniffed in that haughty way she does. “My blood does not stoop so low in participating in such a heinous atrocity.”  

“I’d take on that bet,” Caroline quipped, causing Andy to let out a boisterous laugh.  

Miranda closed her eyes as she pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers, nearly groaning as she said. “Of course, you would. That obviously comes from your father’s side.”  

Cassidy giggled. “Yeah, Dad’s like a barbarian when it comes to food.”  

Miranda smiled a shark-like grin. “Oh, not only when it comes down to food, alas.”  

The twins laughed while Andy unknowingly stared at Miranda, a tender smile on her face. She’d missed this side of the older woman, where Miranda freely and playfully joshed in her witty and sarcastic way.  

Miranda glanced over at her and raised an eyebrow. “What?”  

Andy blinked out of her daze and asked foolishly. “Huh?”  

“You were staring,” Miranda said, looking at her curiously.  

Andy fought hard against the blush creeping up her cheeks as she nearly squealed. “No, I wasn’t.”  

Caroline giggled. “Yeah, you kinda were. Why? Does Mom have something between her teeth?”  

Miranda rolled her eyes, then looked back at Andy with a questioning gleam in her eyes.   

Rubbing at the back of her neck, Andy looked down at her empty plate. “It’s nothing. I was just-, well.” She cleared her throat. “I was just thinking how funny you are.”  

“You’re silly,” Cassidy chuckled. “Why were you thinking that? Mom can crack a joke like no other, even if it does seem unintentional. Didn’t you know that by now?”  

Andy let out an awkward laugh. “Well, yeah, of course. It’s just that I don’t get to see this side of your mother that much, y’know.   

“How so? You’re with her almost every day,” Caroline said.  

Andy glanced sideways over at Miranda to see that she was still observing her with an unreadable look on her face. Shrugging, Andy said as she looked back at the twins. “I just understand that your mother has to act in a certain way when we’re at work. A lot is demanded of her and she has to represent a specific role as our boss. Your mother has to be firm and assertive to make sure Runway continues to run as flawlessly as it does. It means that she can’t really be jesting around, y’know. Runway is the flagship fashion magazine because of her, so she needs people to take their job seriously.”  

Andy looked shyly over at Miranda then. “What I mean to say is that I-, that it’s-, nice-, to see you more relaxed, I guess.” She rubbed at the back of her neck once more. “I’m sorry, I’m rambling.”  

Caroline giggled. “I don’t see why everyone is so afraid of Mom. She can be a really big softie sometimes.”  

“Hm,” Miranda hummed as she leveled a narrowed gaze at Caroline. “Do you really not see why?” She said in an eerily soft voice.  

Caroline swallowed audibly. “Okay, yeah. You’re right. You can be really scary sometimes, Mom.”  

Cassidy laughed as she poked her sister on the forehead. “C’mon, you know she’s playing you. Just put on one of those sappy classics she likes and she turns into putty in no time.”  

Andy was utterly enamored by Miranda’s faint rosy cheeks as she said. “That is quite enough now, girls. Were you not planning on humiliating Andréa just a minute ago?”  

“Oh, yeah!” The twins chorused as they grinned wickedly at Andy.  

“Hope you still got some room left in your belly, Andy,” Cassidy said.  

“Coz you’ll have been eating loads of dirt when we’re done with you,” Caroline finished.  

Andy smirked as she chuckled. “Bring it on, tiny terrors.”  

*** 

Sweat was trickling down Andy’s forehead as she panted in short, visible breaths in the cold weather. The twins had every right to be cocky about their skills but so did Andy. She hadn’t been kidding when she’d said that she was one of the best players on her team when she was in college. However, she felt that she’d gotten a little rusty since then. It certainly didn’t help that she was playing against two overly energetic pre-teens who were still smirking even though they were panting just as hard as her. They’d been playing for almost an hour in the surprisingly spacious backyard, and Andy was down by two points which, all things considered, wasn’t a bad achievement.  

Once she caught her breath again, Andy dashed, expertly keeping the ball close in front of her. She dribbled around Cassidy but was met by the merciless trickery feet of Caroline. They struggled to keep control of the ball but eventually, Andy was able to swerve around her, kicked the ball, and scored another point.  

“How d’you like them apples, kids?!” Andy jested, smiling her mega-watt grin.  

“Match isn’t over yet, Andy! You’re still losing!” Cassidy yelled as she jogged back into position.  

Caroline puffed out her chest, raised her chin, and pointed at Andy as she taunted. “You just got lucky there! I’m not letting you score another goal, just so y’know!”  

Andy chuckled. “I’m willing to gamble on that luck. C’mon, let’s see what else you’ve got!”  

With a shark-like grin, eerily similar to Miranda’s, Caroline was off like a bullet. Andy ran up to block but right before she reached Caroline, she passed the ball to her sister. Slipping slightly on the grass, Andy quickly turned directions and sprinted after Cassidy. Once she reached her, after a bit of a struggle, Andy was able to steal the ball away, however, only for a couple of seconds as Cassidy suddenly kicked the ball away from her. Turning, Andy saw Caroline dribbling the ball towards the goal with a victorious smirk on her face.  

“Shit!” Andy barked and sprinted as fast as she could to defend her goal. She was a lot faster than the twins due to their height differences, which had been a massive much-needed advantage during their game.   

“You’re going down, Andy!” Caroline hollered.  

The second Andy reached her goal, she heard the loud thud of the ball being kicked. Turning to face the direction of the shot, a brutal smash hit her in the temple, whipping her head back and causing her to tumble backward until she crashed down flat on her back, knocking the air right out of her lungs and the back of her head harshly hitting the ground.  

Desperately gasping for breath, Andy blinked several times, trying to see through the black spots in her vision. When that didn’t seem to help, she closed her eyes, then groaned as her head started to spin dizzyingly behind the darkness of her closed eyelids. There was a resounding, high-pitched ringing in her ears, drowning out the sound of the twins yelling, leaving her not being able to make out what they were saying. Starting to feel nauseated by the swirling in her head, she raised a trembling hand to her pounding forehead as she tried to focus on her breathing.  

“Andy! Andy! Are you okay?!” The panicking shriek of one of the girls invaded her hearing, but Andy couldn’t make out which one of the twins it was. It was only when the girl was kneeling right beside her that Andy could identify the voice.  

“Andy! C’mon! Open your eyes!” Caroline said as she frantically shook Andy by the shoulders.  

Andy groaned at the loud, painfully penetrating voice of the redhead and her body being jostled. “Just-” She let out in a strained breath. “A minute.”  

Suddenly, Andy felt another presence looming over her but her head was still in all sorts of sluggish disarray to even trying an attempt at opening her eyes. A warm hand settled against her cold cheek, burning her skin by the stark contrast in temperature, its welcoming heat warming up the blood rushing in her veins.  

“Andréa?” Miranda’s soft, gentle voice permeated and caressed the brunette’s being.  

Andy could only moan in response.  

“Andréa? Are you alright?” Miranda whispered worriedly, softly stroking Andy’s cheek.  

Andy nodded slightly, then unconsciously, leaned into Miranda’s soothing touch.  

“Can you open your eyes for me, dear?”  

Even in her dizzy daze, the term of endearment didn’t go unnoticed, and Andy found herself not being able to deny the older woman anything. Slowly blinking her eyes open, Andy was relieved to see that the black spots were gone. When the blurriness subsided and her vision cleared, Andy felt the oxygen leaving her lungs once more as her eyes settled on Miranda’s concerned face, hovering only a foot above her.  

“Good,” Sighing a breath of relief, Miranda smiled warmly but her eyes were still shining with worry.  

“How are you feeling?” Miranda asked softly, seemingly unaware that her thumb was caressing back and forth over Andy’s flushed cheekbone.  

“I’m-, I’m alright,” Andy rasped breathlessly, a shiver coursing through her body even though she wasn’t even feeling the slightest bit of cold.  

Miranda noticed the shiver and frowned, oblivious that it was her touch that caused the effect on the younger woman. “We need to get you inside before you catch your death out here. Can you sit up?”  

Andy reluctantly nodded, already missing Miranda’s warm hand on her face before it even left her. She hoisted herself up on her elbows, groaned, and closed her eyes again as the pounding in her head intensified.  

“Easy now, Andréa. Don’t rush, take your time,” Miranda soothed as she laid a steadying hand between Andy’s shoulder blades.  

“I’m sorry,” Andy whispered, suddenly feeling embarrassed.  

“There is no need to apologize, Andréa. Just tell me when you are ready to move again.”   

The gentleness in Miranda’s voice had Andy opening her eyes again to look at her. Her head started to swoon but for an entirely different reason this time. Miranda was looking down at her with a look of heart-stopping tenderness and Andy found herself getting lost in the unguarded depth of her arctic blues.  

When Miranda raised a curious eyebrow, Andy blinked and tore her gaze away, shyly looking down at her lap.  

“Are you sure you are alright?” Miranda asked again, her hand rubbing small circles on Andy’s upper back.  

Andy’s breath hitched in her throat as she squeaked. “Yes,” Clearing her throat, she tried again. “Yeah, just-, I’m a little light-headed. But I think I can get up now.”  

Miranda tentatively studied her for a moment, then nodded. “Alright, take your time.”  

Slowly, Andy moved onto her knees, breathing deeply to try and keep the dizziness at bay, then raised herself into a standing position. The moment she stood upright, blackness was rapidly enclosing around the edges of her vision as she felt her blood rushing down her body. Her head swirled viciously, robbing her of her balance, causing her body to sway backward. In an instant, a steadying arm encircled her around her lower back and another hand strongly gripped her upper arm, pulling her flush against Miranda’s body.  

“I got you,” Miranda whispered, close enough for her warm breath to tickle Andy’s ear. “Take a deep breath.”  

Andy did as she was told. A cold sweat had broken out on her forehead, with a trembling hand, she wiped the droplets away from her brow. “Thanks,” She whispered gratefully.  

“Let us get you inside, shall we?” Miranda asked gently and started to lead the younger woman into the house, keeping her close to her side.  

Gently being lowered onto a chair at the kitchen table, Andy let out a relieved breath for not having to stand on her trembling legs any longer. She watched as Miranda slid over another chair and seated herself in front of her, settling her knees in between Andy’s thighs.  

“How are you feeling now?” Miranda asked, her eyes intently fixated on the brunette’s face.  

“My head hurts and I feel a little shaky, but otherwise, I’m alright,” Andy said, smiling shyly as she rubbed at her temple, then winced at the pain the action caused.  

Warm, slender fingers reached out and enclosed Andy’s wrist, lightly pulling her hand away from her face. Not letting go of Andy’s hand, Miranda lowered them to rest, still clutching, onto the table as her other hand came up to cup Andy’s chin between her thumb and index finger, gently turning Andy’s head to the side.  

“Hm,” Miranda hummed softly, her eyes transfixed on Andy’s temple. “No wonder your head hurts. You have got quite an imprint of the ball on your face.” She chuckled then. “You might not be able to cover it up with make-up. I fear it will only get worse in a little while.”  

Andy was blushing profusely, heated skin tingling and head swirling again, but pleasantly induced by Miranda’s soft, gentle touches. Miranda smiled as she raised a curious eyebrow, then turned her head to look at the twins who were timidly standing next to them. The girls had been following the two women close at their heels, faces like open books, portraying their concern.  

“Caroline,” Miranda said softly, voice brimming with loving tenderness. “Will you grab us an ice pack from the freezer, please? And Cassidy, would you mind making us all some hot chocolates? Andréa could use the sugar and warmth.”  

The twins visibly perked up at being able to do something to help and dashed off to do their respective tasks with an eager, “Yes, Mom!”  

Both women chuckled at that, causing Miranda to regard Andy once more.  

“Honestly, Andréa.” Miranda openly smiled again as she shook her head. “I did not intend for you to take it seriously when I said that I would not mind it to see you plummeting to the ground again. You have already made it quite clear that you excel at being a klutz on several occasions. There is no need to prove your competence any further on that perspective.”  

Andy laughed loudly but winced within the blink of an eye at the sharp pounding it caused in her head, then settled for chuckling lightly. “I thought you’d enjoy it to see me smacking my head against something, considering you’d accused me of doing exactly that nearly on a daily basis several weeks back.”  

Miranda sniffed, her eyes dancing with amusement. “Yes, well. As long as you do not take all my accusations to heart and start performing at a glacial pace as well. That is still something I will never approve of.”   

Smirking a wicked grin, Miranda chuckled. “Truthfully, however, I do not mind seeing you flounder about as ungraciously as you do. It is rather amusing.”   

Miranda’s smirk softened into a look of earnest concern. She released Andy’s wrist and stroked the back of her fingers gently over Andy’s temple. “As long as you do not hurt yourself in the process, that is.”  

It took all of Andy’s strength to not lean into Miranda’s touch then, instead, she settled for giggling as she whispered. “I’ll try not to from here on out, promise.”  

Fingers lingering on Andy’s face, Miranda looked deeply into her eyes as she whispered back. “Good.”  

“Here you go, Mom,” Caroline said as she wrapped a dish towel around the ice pack and held it out to her.  

“Thank you, Bobbsey,” Miranda took it from her and softly pressed the bundle against Andy’s head.  

Andy let out a sigh of relief at the welcoming coolness against her pounding temple. Her eyes fluttered shut for a moment and this time, she could not stop herself from leaning into the gently applied pressure.  

“I’m really sorry, Andy,” Caroline said timidly, watery eyes raking over Andy with concern.  

Andy opened her eyes then, warmly gazing at the girl. “There’s no need to apologize, Care. It was just a little accident. These things can happen, especially when you’re me.” She said as she poked Caroline in the ribs.  

Caroline giggled at that, but when she looked at the brunette again, there was still a bit of worry glistening in her eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay?”  

Andy held one of her arms open to her and without hesitation, Caroline stepped into the embrace as she encircled her arms around Andy’s neck. “Stop worrying, my tiny terror. I’m fine, honestly. Nothing a little hot cocoa can fix, alright?” She whispered as she cradled the girl’s head against her other temple.  

“Alright,” Caroline sniffed, then drew back and grinned up at her. “I’m surprised you don’t smell like chocolate, considering the number of sweets you eat.”  

“Caroline,” Miranda uttered sternly, which only caused Andy to laugh harder than intended.   

When Andy winced again, both Priestly women shot her a look of concern once more.  

Miranda turned her head to speak to her daughter. “Caroline, why don’t you go help your sister?”  

Caroline seemed to hesitate for a moment, glancing between the two women, then relented with a little sigh. “Alright.”  

Once the girl was out of earshot, Miranda turned to regard Andy with a frown on her face. “I think we better call a doctor, Andréa. I am afraid that you might have a concussion.”  

Andy shook her head as she smiled in reassurance. “Really, I’m fine, Miranda. There’s no need for that. It’s just a little headache. I’m sure it will pass in no time.”  

Miranda kept silent for a moment, her frown deepening. “Well, I am not so sure.”  

“Miranda, I-” Andy began to debate but stopped when Miranda held up her index finger.  

“We will see how you fare the next hour or two. If your headache has not abated or if you feel dizzy again, I will have a doctor examine you.” Miranda said in her firm no-nonsense tone.  

Andy frowned as she let out a sigh, ready to protest again. “Miranda-”  

“Andréa,” The older woman interrupted once more. Her stern features faded into a nearly pleading look. “Please.”  

Andy was biting on the tip of her tongue, her mind not wanting to relent to being fussed over, but her heart yearning to give everything Miranda wished for.  

When it still looked like Andy wasn’t about to comply, Miranda reached out the hand that wasn’t currently holding the ice pack against the younger woman’s head, and gently grasped the top of Andy’s hand that was resting on her thigh.   

“For me,” Miranda whispered.  

Even if she tried, Andy couldn’t stop the lovestruck gaze from gleaming in her eyes. Lightly squeezing Miranda’s fingers, Andy nodded once and whispered. “Alright.”  

“Here you go, Andy,” Cassidy said as she held out a steaming mug, topped with a mountain of fluffy white, towards Andy and another one, without the whipped cream, towards her mother.  

Andy smiled affectionately as she released Miranda’s hand and took the mug from the girl. “Thank you, sweetie.”  

“You’re welcome,” Cassidy quipped. “Feeling any better? That sure was one heck of a blow you got there. Care has a mean kick if she puts her all into it.”  

Andy chuckled. “She sure has. And I’m fine, really. I’m sure your sweet concoction here will do just the trick.”  

Cassidy beamed at that. “I put an extra sugar cube in there. I’m sure it will work wonders on you.”  

Andy laughed, trying to suppress the need to wince whenever she made a loud noise and poked the girl on the forehead. “I have no doubt about that.”  

Caroline slowly approached them, her tongue slightly poking out between her lips as she struggled not to spill any of the chocolate that was nearly brimming over the mugs she was holding. Cassidy saw her sister struggling and walked over to help.  

Miranda rolled her eyes good-naturedly as she glanced at the overly filled mugs and Andy chuckled behind her own mug as she took a sip from it.  

“Wow,” Andy cleared her throat. “That’s-, that’s really sweet. Even for me.”  

Miranda glanced back at her then, an amused expression on her face.  

“What?” Andy blinked.  

Chuckling, Miranda shook her head as she reached out and slowly traced her thumb above Andy’s upper lip as she wiped a trace of cream away. Andy’s breath caught in her chest at feeling Miranda’s touch so close to her mouth.  

Retracting her hand, Miranda taunted. “A klutz and a slob, Andréa?”  

Not trusting her voice, all Andy could do was blush as she rolled her eyes.  

The four of them leisurely sipped from their hot cocoas around the kitchen table as light-hearted banter easily flowed between them. When the twins had stacked the mugs into the dishwasher, Miranda sent them off to take a shower and change.  

“You may take a shower in the guest bedroom as well, Andréa. I will lay some clothes out for you on the bed to change into.”  

“Oh,” Andy blinked. “Okay, alright. Thanks, Miranda.”  

Andy stood up and when she took a step forward, another blood pressure drop washed over her, blackening and blurring her vision as her head furiously pounded and swirled with dizziness once more.  

Having been observing the brunette closely, Miranda was quick on her feet and reached out to steady Andy by holding onto her arms. When her vision returned to normal, Andy glanced up at Miranda and shrugged timidly. “Sorry.”  

Miranda sighed, the concerned expression back on her face. “I will help you up the stairs and run you a bath. I do not trust for you to be standing in case you might feel dizzy again. God only knows about all the sorts of lethal damage you might cause yourself if you were to slip and smack your pretty little head in the shower.” She finished with a wicked grin.  

Andy laughed whilst frowning against the suddenly agonizing headache.  

Miranda’s tone turned serious after Andy’s laughter died down. “However, I am calling you a doctor whether you like it or not, Andréa.”  

Andy looked up at Miranda then, acknowledging the deadly gravity in her arctic blues. Knowing that protesting would be utterly in vain and only serve to irritate the older woman, Andy relented with a heavy sigh. “Alright.”  

Nodding once, Miranda let her go then, and together, side by side, they walked towards and up the stairs into the bedroom where Andy had stayed the night once before. Andy winced and held a hand above her eyes when Miranda flicked on the light in the ensuite.  

“Hm,” Miranda hummed knowingly. “It looks as if my assumptions are right. If bright light is bothering you, I am without a doubt certain that you have a slight concussion, Andréa.” She said as she dimmed the light to a soft glow and moved to prepare a bubble bath.  

“How would you know? Last time I checked, you weren’t a doctor.” Andy grumbled as she crossed her arms over her chest. Realizing her tone with a blink of her eyes, she uncrossed her arms and looked apologetically up at Miranda. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. You’ve been nothing but helpful and accommodating to me. My head’s just really killing me all of a sudden.”  

“Irritability is another common side effect of a concussion,” Miranda looked positively smug as Andy huffed at that. “I would know, Andréa. I have had a concussion twice in my life. I recognize the symptoms in you.”  

“Oh,” Andy said sheepishly as she lowered her gaze, feeling embarrassed for her little spat.  

Miranda walked over to her and lifted Andy’s chin with the tip of her index finger. “It is quite alright, Andréa. You will just need a bit of rest and you will feel better in no time. Just try not to slip in the tub and make it any worse, alright?”  

Andy blushed and smiled shyly. “Alright,” She breathed. “And-, well, thank you, Miranda.”  

Looking deeply into Andy’s eyes and with a warmhearted smile, Miranda moved her hand from her chin and up to brush the back of her fingers over the slight bump on her temple. Without another word, Miranda walked past her and softly closed the door behind her.  

Andy inhaled a much-needed breath and held her hand against her chest, feeling it beating rapidly against her palm as a small smile, yet brimming with significant reverence, crept up the corners of her mouth, realizing she’d fallen impossibly harder for the older woman. 

Chapter Text

Languorously dragging herself forward, Andy followed the sound of the twins’ chatter up the stairs and down the hallway. Even though her bath had been heaven-sent, she was feeling worse than before. Her limbs felt heavily weak and her head was killing her in a thousand different, tortuous ways. Yet, when she reached the threshold of the girls’ playroom, she smiled warmly at the vision of the twins sprawled out on their bellies on the floor, surrounded by a cluster of pillows and a laid-back Miranda, legs stretched out, free of heels, and crossed at the ankles on the couch.  

Miranda glanced over at her with an unguarded smile, which quickly faded when her eyes locked with Andy’s as if she was able to read the lethargy in them. With her mind too tired and not able to think clearly, Andy slumped over towards the couch, grabbed Miranda’s ankles, lifted her legs, causing Miranda to let out a surprised little squeak which Andy found incredibly adoring, flopped down with a heavy sigh, and laid Miranda’s feet back down onto her lap as she rested her head against the backrest.  

“You okay, Andy?” Cassidy asked.  

“You look a bit pale,” Caroline added.  

“Mhm,” Andy hummed, smiling reassuringly down at them. “I’m fine, kiddos. Just a bit tired.”  

The twins looked up at her with faces that told Andy that they didn’t believe a single word she’d said.  

“The doctor should be here any moment now,” Miranda said, with a look of equal disbelief as her daughters.  

“I see,” Andy sighed. “That’s fast.”  

“Well,” Miranda smirked. “Being a well-known figure does have its perks sometimes.”  

Andy didn’t quite know how to feel about that statement and she wasn’t even in the slightest bit capable of pondering that thought, so, she let it slide as she merely nodded, then asked. “So, what are you tiny terrors up to now?”  

“We wanna watch a movie before dinner, but decided to wait till the doc’s checked you out,” Caroline answered, then Cassidy picked up.  

“We just decided to simply order take-out, but don’t know if we want Thai or Chinese. Which do you like better?”  

“Oh. I-” Andy glanced over at Miranda with an uncertain look on her face.  

Smiling soothingly, Miranda nodded. “Yes, Andréa. You will be staying over for dinner.”  

Andy blushed as she wondered with a bit of trepidation if Miranda was always able to read her so easily. Looking down at the twins again, she shrugged. “I-, uhm, I like both actually. As long as they’ve got some great curry.” 

Caroline nodded, mind seemingly all made up. “Thai it is then. The place we order from has the best curries in town. You’ll be a drooling mess once you catch a sniff of it.”  

“Very well.” Miranda acceded. “Why don’t you go ahead and order something for us all, Caroline? And Cassidy, would you be a dear and set the table so that everything is ready once the food arrives?”  

“’Kay, Mom.”  
“Okay, Mom.”  

Once the girls left the room, Andy chuckled as she looked at Miranda. “You’ve trained them well.”  

Miranda snorted as she rolled her eyes. “Oh, believe me. It usually takes a lot more troublesome effort to get them to do anything anymore. They are going well into those harrowing, rebellious, pre-teen attitudes.  

Andy smiled half-heartedly. She really wanted to laugh, but her head prevented her from earnestly feeling her gaiety.  

Miranda gazed at her for a silent moment. “You are not feeling well, are you?”  

With a lopsided smile, Andy shook her head, seeing no point in denying how she felt since she no longer had the energy to keep up appearances. “No, not really. I’ve never experienced a headache so severe before. It’s draining me a little.”  

“Hm,” Miranda hummed, then opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell.  

“I’ll get it!!” They heard Caroline yell from the ground floor.  

“That must be the doctor,” Miranda said as she lifted her feet from Andy’s lap, not once having shown that she felt bothered by their position on the couch. “Stay here. I will be right back.”  

“Okay,” Andy said as she watched Miranda leave the room.  

Several minutes later, Miranda walked in again, a blonde, older woman with graying hair carrying a typical doctor’s black bag, in tow. Andy stood up to greet her, then closed her left eye and scrunched her face at the slight dizzying feeling the movement induced, causing Miranda to quicken her step until she reached the brunette’s side, holding onto her upper arm.  

“Oh, dear.” The doctor chuckled as her friendly gaze scanned over Andy. “I think you might be right, Miranda.”  

“When am I not?” Miranda smirked.  

“Please, sit back down, Ms. Sachs. My name is Lucille Collins. I heard your head took quite the beating by an eleven-year-old.”  

Andy chuckled. “Yeah, something like that, and please, call me Andy.”  

Lucille nodded as she asked gently. “Alright then, Andy. Why don’t you tell me what you’ve been feeling since then?” 

Rubbing at the back of her neck, Andy explained. “Well, my head really hurts and I’m feeling a bit dizzy every now and then.”  

“Andréa also seems to be a little sensitive to light,” Miranda added, stern eyes transfixed on Andy. 

“I see.” Lucille nodded. “Would you mind showing me where your head hurts, Andy?”  

Andy gestured to her temple and when she pointed to the back of her head, Miranda lifted an accusing eyebrow at her. Andy shrugged sheepishly. “I’ve sort of hit the back of my head as well when I fell.”  

“And you are only telling me this now?” Miranda voiced it more as an accusation rather than a question.  

“Sorry,” Andy whispered, eyes wide as she looked up at Miranda’s narrowing ones. “I didn’t think it would get this bad.”  

Miranda rolled her eyes as she placed her hands on her hips.  

“Alright, Andy,” Lucille spoke up again. “Mind if I examine you for a bit?”  

“Sure.” Andy nodded.  

After several minutes, the doctor scribbled down a prescription for pain medication as well as a medical leave letter for a week’s rest.  

“And remember,” Lucille began. “Plenty of sleep and rest, stay hydrated, limit exposures to bright light and loud sounds, avoid strenuous activities, and eat healthily, lots of proteins, omega-3s, and anything with antioxidants will work wonders.”  

Andy smiled. “You got it, Doc. But-, well.” She stole a sideways glance at Miranda before looking back at the doctor. “Uhm, I sort of have a lot of work to do. So, when I go home today, is it okay if I work from home tomorrow?” In her peripheral vision, she saw Miranda frowning with a piercing gaze directed her way.  

Lucille nodded. “I suggest you don’t do any work for the first couple of days at least. Then, I suppose if you feel up to it, it would be alright. Just make sure to take a lot of breaks, modify what you do, and reduce any screen time.”  

Andy sighed as her shoulders slumped. “Alright then. Thank you, Doctor.”  

“You’re welcome, sweetheart.” Lucille smiled gently. “Enjoy the rest of your evening.”  

“I will walk you out, Lucille,” Miranda said as she gestured for the doctor to walk ahead of her.  

A couple of minutes later, Miranda returned and moved to stand close beside the seated brunette. “Come along, Andréa. The food has arrived,” Miranda said, a hint of coldness lacing her voice.  

Andy blinked at the sudden frigidity in Miranda’s tone and posture. Looking up at the older woman, she was met with a steely face of indifference, a stark contrast to the unguarded woman of only half an hour ago.   

Andy’s mind swirled in confusion as she warily asked. “Miranda? Are-, is-, is everything alright?”  

Miranda crossed her arms over her chest as she said. “Due to your unfortunate concussion, you have left me with no choice but to excuse you from moving at a glacial pace, Andréa. However, that does not mean that I find waiting for absolutely no reason whatsoever suddenly tolerable.”  

Andy frowned irritably as her temper abruptly flared, not comprehending Miranda’s sudden change in demeanor. Feeling burned by Miranda’s derisive tone and remark, Andy huffed and mumbled under her breath. “I see the Ice Queen has decided to join us at last.”  

Not quite discerning Miranda’s fleetingly hurt expression, she stood up from the couch with clenched fists and made for a quick beeline towards the door. Before she reached the threshold, another bout of dizziness took a hold of her, causing her knees to tremble as she staggered forward.  

Slender, yet strong arms encircled her waist from behind, catching Andy just in time before she’d inevitably tumbled down onto the floor. Andy couldn’t breathe as she registered that her back was entirely pressed against Miranda’s front. A visible shiver ran up and down her already trembling body as she felt Miranda’s hot breath ghosting over the back, and side of her neck.  

They stood like that for a long moment, the silence thickening with laden tension, surrounding them, weighing heavily on their shoulders as the air suddenly elevated with several scorching degrees, with neither woman seemingly knowing how to proceed. Eventually, Andy felt the urgent, uncontrollable need to breathe again as she inhaled a much-needed breath.  

“I’m sorry,” Both women whispered concurrently.  

After another oppressed moment, Andy reluctantly stepped out of Miranda’s slowly retreating circle of arms. Turning, Andy intended to look at Miranda but suddenly, the older woman swept right past her without another word or glance. Feeling lost, Andy stared out into the empty hallway, not understanding what had just transpired between them. With a weary sigh, Andy continued her journey down the stairs. 

When she entered the kitchen, everyone was already seated around the table, serving food from the white take-out boxes onto their plates in silence. She took her seat opposite the twins, with Miranda at the head of the table as usual. When Andy took the first bite of her meal, she couldn’t even acknowledge how good it was, her mind sorely occupied by her pounding headache, and not being able to feel past the unease that had settled in the pit of her stomach.  

“So,” Caroline apprehensively broke the awkward tension. “What did the doctor say, Andy?”  

Andy took a sip of water before answering. “It’s just a minor concussion that will pass in a couple of days. Nothing to worry about.”  

“Does it still hurt?” Cassidy asked timidly, feeling unsettled by the sudden change in atmosphere.  

Not wanting to worry the twins more than they already are, Andy forced a smile as she winked at them. “Just a little headache. Nothing a painkiller can’t fix.”  

An uncomfortable silence settled around them once more. Wanting to erase the twins' slightly somber looks, Andy tried to lighten the mood. “So, I guess I’ll be treating you two with ice cream and candy, huh?”  

But the twins didn’t seem to perk up at that. They looked at one another for a moment, non-verbal communication seemingly flowing between them, then turned to look at Andy again.  

“No, that’s alright, Andy,” Cassidy said as she pushed her food around her plate.  

“Yeah, we didn’t get to finish our match. So, we didn’t actually win, y’know,” Caroline explained, fumbling with her napkin.  

“Of course, you did.” Andy tried to cheer them up. “You were in the lead when we had to stop. So, in my book, you guys won fair and square.” Leaning forward on her elbows a little, Andy tried for a teasing look. “But if you really don’t want it, I guess I’ll just have to finish all the candy I’ve brought along myself.”  

The twins’ heads snapped up. “You brought our candy?” Caroline inquired curiously.  

“Sure did.” Andy nodded as she tried not to smile at their wide eyes. “Well, I guess it’s my candy now. Since you said you didn’t want it.”  

“We didn’t say we didn’t want it.” Cassidy hastily provided.  

“Oh?” Andy smirked. “But technically, you guys didn’t win. You said so yourself. So, unless you can give me a really good reason to share my bounty of sugary sweetness, I guess I’ve got no other choice but to take it back home with me.”  

“No!” The twins chorused and Andy tried not to wince at their loud voices.  

“I mean-,” Caroline began. “You’ve brought it with you all this way. It seems silly to just bring it back home with you again.”  

Cassidy nodded eagerly. “Yeah! We really don’t mind taking some of that weight off your shoulders, Andy.”  

“Pfft.” Andy waved her hand dismissively. “I’m a lot stronger than I look, y’know. My heavy backpack doesn’t bother me at all. Besides, that much candy really isn’t that healthy for your little bodies and teeth anyway.”  

Caroline groaned as she ran a hand through her hair. “You’re not playing fair, Andy.”  

Andy just chuckled in response.  

“But it’s good for our hearts though,” Cassidy quipped. “Think about it, if you were to share with us, would mean that you love us, right? That would be like the ultimate gesture of you showing your love for us and that’s definitely healthy for us, wouldn’t you agree?” She finished with a little pout of her lips and wide, twinkling eyes, Caroline mimicking the pleading look.  

Andy’s smirk had softened midway Cassidy’s reasoning and was now gazing at them with a look as tender as may morning with her heart blooming like flowers in the sun. She looked at Miranda then, who hadn’t even made the slightest sound during the entirety of their dinner, to see that the older woman was already watching her. Miranda’s features gave nothing away as to what she was thinking, but Andy could see a tempestuous storm full of thoughts and emotions swirling in the depth of her arctic blues.  

Feeling her heart skip a beat, Andy looked back at the twins, who were still assailing her with their pleading looks.  

“You love us, right?” Caroline feigned a saddening whine.  

“Don’t you, Andy?” Cassidy stuck out her bottom lip just a little further.  

Andy conceded, beaming her mega-watt smile. “Of course, I do, kiddos.” She chuckled as she shook her. “Alright, fine. You win. I could never deny anything you Priestlys wished for.”  

“Thank you, Andy!” The twins cheered gleefully, bursting in a fit of triumphant giggles.  

“Can we go check your bag, Andy? Y’know, to see if you got the flavors right,” Caroline asked curiously.  

Andy smiled, rolling her eyes good-naturedly. “Clear the table first, girls. Then, sure, go right ahead. But no eating them until your mother says you can.”  

“’Kay, Andy.”  
“Okay, Andy.” They chorused as they jumped off their seats and as a whirlwind, started to run back and forth to clean the table.  

When all their plates had been rinsed and put in the dishwasher and the leftovers stacked in the fridge, the twins shot out of the kitchen like lightning, leaving the two women alone in the suddenly silent kitchen.  

After a minute, Andy dared to glance at Miranda, who was looking down into her glass of water, seemingly deep in contemplation.  

Starting to feel the uneasiness from before overwhelming her again, the need to say something and ease the tension got the better of Andy once more.  

“Sorry,” Andy whispered shyly.  

Miranda blinked out of her daze and looked at Andy then, a hint of confusion in her eyes. “What for?” She asked softly.  

Andy rubbed at the back of her neck. “Well, I-, I thought-, I don’t know.” She let out a nervous chuckle. “I wasn’t really thinking. I should’ve asked-, well, I guess, your consent first? I just hope I didn’t overstep, y’know, with the girls.”  

Miranda gazed at her for a long moment, face as unreadable as ever. She blinked once more as if she’d made up her mind about something, her features softening slightly. “It is quite alright, Andréa.” She hesitated for a moment. “You are rather good with them,” Another apprehensive pause. “To them. I-, well, I suppose I should thank you for that.”  

Andy shook her head as she smiled. “That’s not necessary, Miranda.” Her smile faded as she turned serious. “I understand that this might feel strange to you. Me, your assistant, getting along with your children, and I’m sorry if you feel as if I’m intruding in your life. It has never been my intention to interfere where you find my presence unwelcome. I acknowledge that I might’ve created a rather unusual situation for you. However,”   

She cleared her throat and took a sip of her water. “I want you to know that I would never make light of this situation. I realize that your children are everything to you, Miranda. And I promise that I would never do or say something that might bring harm to your family in any shape or form. Because-, well, they-, they weren’t wrong. About me-, sharing.”  

Miranda had been intensely observing the brunette, when Andy fell silent, she inclined her head to the side, silently waiting for Andy to elaborate further.  

“I-, I-, do-,” Andy let out a nervous breath and paused for a moment, then whispered. “Care.” She averted her eyes to gaze down at her fidgeting hands on the table as she fell silent again, suddenly longing to say so much more but knowing it was unwise, perhaps even unwanted, and that she was just making a fool of herself.  

“You care?” Miranda asked softly but strained after a minute has passed. “About what?”  

With a slightly trembling hand, Andy took another sip from her glass, trying to moisten her dry mouth. “About them,” She whispered still looking down at the table. “About-, I-,”   

She let out another sigh, feeling frustrated by her obscuring mind and angry at her painfully yearning heart. “For God’s sake, I don’t know what I’m even trying to say. I guess it doesn’t matter anyway.”  

Wanting to escape the drowning hole she unintentionally dug out for herself, Andy slid her chair back as she mumbled. “I think I better leave.”  

A hand shot out to grab Andy’s forearm, keeping her from getting up.  

“Andréa,” Miranda said, a distraught expression on her face as her eyes locked with Andy’s.  

With a questioning look, Andy waited for Miranda to say something else. When it looked like nothing else was forthcoming, Andy whispered. “Yes, Miranda?”  

“I-” Miranda paused as she let out a heavy sigh, then lightly squeezed Andy’s arm. “Don’t.”  

Andy frowned, not understanding what Miranda meant.  

“I mean-” Miranda began again. For the first time since Andy had known the editor, Miranda’s tone was brimming with uncertainty. “Don’t leave.” Miranda closed her eyes for a moment, frowning deeply as she shook her head. “I-, your concussion-, I mean.” She opened her eyes again. “I don’t want you going back to your apartment in your condition. Stay the night.”  

Andy closed her eyes and shook her head as well, then looked back at Miranda, desperately trying not to convey the agony her entire being felt for wanting to be closer to the older woman, and yet, not knowing how to bridge the vast distance she still felt between them. “Miranda, I’m alright. I know I’ve already overstayed my welcome when you had to call the doctor. I don’t want to be any more of a burden to you than I already am.”  

“What?” Miranda blinked, eyes showing her confusion. “What makes you think that?”  

Sighing, Andy sat back in her seat as she pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers. “Well, you were mad at me, weren’t you? Because I can’t work for you as much as I’d like to. You said it yourself that you find my concussion unfortunate.”  

Miranda shook her head. “No, Andréa. I was not thinking anything of the sort.”  

Andy glanced up irritably. “Then why did you say that? Why did you pull back from me all of a sudden? What did I do or say this time to have offended you again?”  

Miranda leaned back in her seat as she crossed her arms over her waist, averting her gaze from Andy. “I am not sure.”  

Andy huffed. “You’re never unsure, Miranda. You just don’t want to tell me.”  

Another suppressing, air-sucking, silence weighed down upon the two women, neither of them knowing how to overcome this stumbling block they had inadvertently created.  

After another minute, it was Miranda who caved first and broke the uneasy quiet between them. “Why are you always trying so hard to interact with me? Not as my assistant.”  

Andy blinked as she felt her heart skip several beats. “What do you mean?” She asked warily.  

Miranda frowned as she continued to study the table surface. “I do not understand why you have tried so hard to make me forgive you for Paris. Ever since I stopped being so cruel toward you, you are always trying to talk to me when you notice that something is bothering me. You seem to enjoy it when I had started to unload my frustrations upon you whenever we are alone. You are always trying to lessen my workload even when I never demanded that of you. You are constantly reading me so you can predict what I might be needing at that moment or even beforehand. And you are invariably trying to venture further beyond our working relationship. I simply do not understand what it is that you want from me.”  

Andy felt utterly gobsmacked, her brain short-circuited and she suddenly forgot how to breathe. Her mind swirled painfully as to how she could respond to Miranda. What excuse could Andy give the older woman for having her seemingly be a never-ending constant within her thoughts? How could she reason all her back-breaking efforts for Miranda when it had never been asked of her to do so? How could she explain why she longed for something more than merely an employer-employee dynamic without giving away that she was actually in love with her?  

Andy had an inkling that Miranda might feel something more pronounced between them. However, Miranda had become a master in protecting her fortress with an unrivaled skillset in hiding her thoughts and emotions behind it. Miranda might’ve started to let her guard down on several occasions, but when it truly came down to it, she continued to keep the brunette at an arm’s length.   

So, Andy was still none the wiser after her attempts at venturing out in the uncharted territory. Every time she had reached a clearing, another barrier had been conjured up. Every time she thought she’d made a new discovery, the chapter ended with its last page missing. Every time she had reached out when she thought the real Miranda Priestly had appeared before her, her hands had grabbed at an unembodied illusion, the vision of the silver-haired woman blurring into nothingness like a mirage in a hopeless desert, leaving her heart aching, and her soul deprived of hope.  

With horrifying dread, Andy realized that she could not explain herself without revealing how she truly felt. However, if she didn’t want her heart to break into a million shattered pieces of melting ice by Miranda’s rejection, there was no way in hell that she could tell her the entire truth. Miranda did not need to know yet as to the true depth of what she was hiding in her heart. At least that much Andy was certain of, at least that much she knew she needed to survive with her soul intact.  

“I did all of that because I care,” Andy whispered as she looked up from underneath her eyelashes.  

Miranda met her gaze then, eyes shining with apprehensive wonder. “You care?” She asked quietly. “About what?”  

The world faded away, the only thing that mattered to Andy at that moment was her drowning connection with Miranda’s arctic blues. “You.”  

Miranda hitched a breath, then seemed to stop breathing altogether. A faint blush crept up her cheeks as she slowly exhaled. “You care about me?” She asked, her voice barely audible.  

Andy simply nodded.  

Miranda cleared her throat. “As you do with the twins?”  

Andy hesitated for a moment, then nodded once more.  

“Why?” Miranda breathed.  

Breaking their connection, Andy looked down at the table again. She closed her eyes as she took a deep breath, then shook her head. When she looked up at Miranda again, hazel eyes were pleading for understanding. “Is that not enough, for now, Miranda?”  

Their eyes were reading each other intently, but it was as if the books that were their thoughts and emotions were written in a foreign language, seemingly able to recognize the words but unable to decipher them.  

Eventually, after another long pulsating moment, Miranda nodded.  

“Alright, Andréa.”  

Andy released a relieved sigh. Suddenly, a tidal wave of exhaustion washed over her as her shoulders slumped and her eyes closed.  

“How are you feeling?” Miranda asked gently.  

“I’m exhausted,” Andy breathed. “I didn’t think it possible, but my headache’s only getting worse.”  

“Hm,” Miranda hummed softly. “I-, I suppose I should apologize. It was not my intention to wear you out even more than you must have been feeling already.”  

Andy glanced up then with a playful smirk as she teased. “Wow, look at you, Miranda. I could definitely count that as a proper apology. Who knew you had it in you?”  

Miranda let out a snort, rolling her eyes. “Yes, well. It seems that all of the grovelings you have done these past months have infected me somehow.”  

Andy’s weary laugh died down quickly. “Still, there’s no need for it, Miranda. I’m fine, honestly. I think I just need to lie down. I don’t really have the energy to do anything else. I hope you don’t mind?”  

“Of course not, Andréa.” Miranda offered that gentle unguarded smile that had Andy falling more in love with her every time she was graced with it. “Perhaps you would like to say goodnight to the girls first? I will help you settle into your bedroom then.”  

Andy’s heart skipped a beat for the umpteenth time that evening when she heard Miranda refer to the guest bedroom as hers. Not allowing herself to think anything more of it, Andy nodded as she said. “Yeah, I’d like that, thanks.”  

***  

After Andy had received both hugs and kisses from the twins who had been watching a movie in their playroom, she’d met back up with Miranda in front of the door of the guest bedroom.  

“Here,” Miranda said as she held out a bundle of clothes to her. “For you to sleep in.”  

“Thanks.” Their fingers brushed, slightly lingering as Andy accepted the garments.   

Rubbing at the back of her neck, Andy said. “Uhm, I feel sort of bad, that I won’t be there to help you at work. I promise I’ll do what I can from a distance.”  

“Andréa,” Miranda breathed. “Please, do not fret about it. All I want you to focus on is on getting better. That means following the doctor’s orders and not doing any type of work until you are feeling better.”  

Andy smiled. “Are that the doctor’s orders, or yours?”  

Miranda chuckled. “Consider them mine from now on.”  

“Well,” Andy whispered. “As I said before, I could never deny anything the Priestlys wished for.”  

Miranda's eyes subtly widened in surprise before a fond smile blossomed on her face. “Good.”  

Andy nodded once as a blush colored her cheeks.   

They silently gazed at one another, seemingly not wanting to leave each other yet.  

Rubbing at the back of her neck again, Andy broke the silence between them. “Y’know, tomorrow might feel a bit strange to me.”  

Miranda inclined her head to the side, a curious glint flickered in her eyes. “How so?”  

Smiling sheepishly, Andy said. “I guess, I’m just so used to starting my week, my day with you, working for you. So, tomorrow might feel, I don’t know, different, because I won’t get to see you, I mean, at work.”  

Miranda’s eyes narrowed slightly, but the curiously was still glinting in their depths. “I see, well, it will come as a refreshing change then, to have your little reprieve from me.”  

Andy’s eyebrows shot up. “What? No!” She shook her head, then said shyly. “That-, that’s not-, what I meant was-, that I don’t mind, y’know, seeing you every day. I-, I like it, spending time with you, even if it’s just to work. So, I guess, tomorrow, and the rest of the week will be like, I don’t know, lonely, I guess.”  

After a short moment, Miranda’s narrowed gaze softened as a gentle smile crept up her face. “Silly girl, I don’t think there has ever been a person before who does not mind working for me.”  

Gently smiling back, Andy said barely above a whisper. “Consider me the first, then.”  

“Hm,” Miranda hummed. “Well, you may call me.”    

Frowning slightly in confusion, Andy asked. “What?”    

Miranda hesitated for a moment as if surprised by her own comment, but her smile didn’t leave her features.   “Tomorrow evening, when I am home from work and after I have had dinner with the girls. You may call me, if you’d like.”  

“Oh.” Andy blinked, eyes conveying her surprise as she stumbled over her words once more. “Uhm, you mean-, like, for work? Or, like, for something-, else?”  

Smirking, Miranda shook her head. “No, not for work, Andréa. I suppose, as you said, you might start to feel lonely after not having been in my presence all day. That is an issue that can easily be remedied.”  

Still feeling a little uncertain, Andy said. “If-, if you’re certain that you don’t mind me calling after you’ve had a long day at work, then, well, I-, I’d be happy to, y’know, talk to you.”  

Miranda good-naturedly rolled her eyes. She raised her hand to fiddle with her necklace, a frisky glint glimmering in her eyes as she asked.  “Honestly, Andréa. Have you ever known me to suggest something I did not mean?”   

Feeling her apprehension elevate from her shoulders, Andy chuckled as she shook her head. “Honestly, Miranda. I fear that you’ll always remain an enigma to me.”   

“Hm,” Miranda hummed, her playful look softening into a tender one. “If anyone can figure me out, it will most likely be you, Andréa. After all, you can do anything, right?”   

Slightly stunned by Miranda’s admission, Andy profusely blushed as she cleared her throat, then nearly whispered. “If you believe I can, then I most certainly will.”    

Miranda’s smile faded, a heated intensity glowing in her eyes as she took a step closer, standing nearly a hair’s breadth away from the younger woman. Raising her hand, she slowly traced the tips of her fingers over the slight bump and the red, dotted lines left by the seams of the soccer ball on Andy’s temple, causing a shiver to run up the brunette’s body as her heartbeat quickened, thrumming inside her chest.   

“Thank you,” Miranda whispered.    

“What for?” Andy shakily whispered back.  

The emotion that glimmered in Miranda’s eyes at that moment was something Andy had never witnessed in the older woman before, causing her to momentarily forget about her restraints as she leaned into Miranda’s bewitching touch.   

Fingertips turned, replaced by the back of Miranda’s fingers as she softly stroked down Andy’s cheek. “For making my girls so happy. For-, caring, about us.”   

Andy could hardly breathe, hardly think as she was helplessly drowning in Miranda’s eyes, her skin burning, yet tingling, induced by Miranda’s seemingly loving touch.   

Backs of fingers became fingertips again as Miranda gently cupped Andy’s chin between her thumb and index finger. Andy thought she was going to faint, exactly like the last time when Miranda leaned in and had kissed her cheek.   

However, this time, Miranda’s heavenly soft and enchantingly warm lips lingered longer and applied firmer, head-dizzying, pressure, right next to her mouth.  

Then, those transcendental lips caressed Andy’s scorching skin as Miranda whispered. “Goodnight, Andréa.”   

Andy stood frozen in place as her ears followed the sound of Miranda’s soft footsteps fading away behind her and disappearing up the stairs.   

A lone tear, which only the heavens could tell if it was glistening with forlorn hope or bliss, trickled down her cheek, over her still tingling skin as she whispered into the empty hallway. “Miranda Priestly. What you do to me...”  

Chapter Text

When Andy blinked her eyes open, she knew she’d woken up to an empty townhouse due to the light streaming in from behind the edges of the curtains. When she’d crawled into bed the evening before, she had been so exhausted that she’d fallen asleep the moment her head had hit the pillow. However, her sleep had been fitful and restless, being constantly torn out of her slumber because of her headache, and she had been lying awake for excruciating moments with a burning sensation in her chest that caused her heart to ache. 

She didn’t know what to think anymore, concerning Miranda. Everything the older woman did or said was incomprehensible to Andy. Every look or touch was entirely inscrutable. Yet, Andy desperately wanted to believe that there had to be some sort of significant implication behind the allusive changes in Miranda.  

Their relation had changed so much over the past weeks, without any real attempts at clearing the confusion the developments had brought along with them, that it had thrown Andy entirely for a loop. Yes, Andy felt their interconnection growing, however, too many things were being left unsaid despite needing clarification, too many parts of them were being kept in the dark where the light of their progress could not reach them, making it impossible for Andy to comprehend as to what was truly unfolding between them. Feeling as if she were lost at sea as their unruly balance continued to dance back and forth in turbulent upheaval, not unlike a ship caught out in a disorienting storm, blinded by heavy downpour, deafened by raging whirlwinds, unstable by merciless waves as it wandered its wayward journey, navigating an uncharted ocean in search of the world’s most valuable treasure. 

As if Andy wasn’t in dire need of answers already, every step in the seemingly right direction they made, simply created more mystifying questions. She couldn’t understand what it was that spurred Miranda on to behave in such ever-changing ways. She couldn’t figure out how to unlock the chains that were holding them back to communicate, and dissolve the essential conjectures so they could escape this imprisonment and move forward, beyond any doubt, to an understanding about their situation. 

Compared to a couple of months ago, Miranda’s attitude had transformed so drastically that, whenever they were alone, the older woman seemed like a different person altogether. Which didn’t come as a complete surprise to Andy, she’d always known that there was so much more to Miranda than she’d led on when they were at work. But seeing Miranda in the comforts of her own home was such a fascinating unveiling that it only drew Andy that much more in into the already consuming depth of the love she felt. 

But it wasn’t enough, Andy needed more, she needed to understand Miranda’s perception about their state of affairs. She needed the mist that was clouding their labyrinthine journey to dissipate, and reveal the hidden passageways that weren’t drawn on the map to seek out Miranda’s unguarded involvement. Andy’s patience was beginning to wear thin, especially if they were to continue at the glacial pace that they were currently progressing at. 

If yesterday’s reciprocity was anything to go by, perhaps it was time to grow a bit more adventurous in her strategy to confront Miranda’s fortress. Miranda had started to show definite signs that she cared for Andy, since the fact that the brunette was currently laying in a bed at the townhouse while Miranda and the twins were already out and about, should be sufficient proof that Miranda was definitely not indifferent towards her. That should be plenty of an indication that Miranda trusted her adequately enough for Andy to start poking and prying at the chinks in Miranda’s armor without getting her hands cut off in the process. Perhaps it was a reasonable time for the both of them to slowly come out of hiding. However, Andy was fairly certain that those first steps wouldn’t be taken by the older woman. So, that left Andy with no other choice but to tap into her boldness and cautiously go on the offensive, and do it as subtly as possible. 

*** 

Monday, 7:30 PM   

“Hello, Andréa,” Miranda greeted softly as she picked up after the second ring. 

Andy smiled brightly as the warmth in Miranda’s voice caressed her ear. “Hi, Miranda,” She breathed, then asked shyly. “I hope I’m not bothering you?” 

“Don’t be daft, I was expecting your call, after all,” Miranda answered in a mocking tone as if Andy couldn’t have asked a more foolish question, however, the younger woman could definitely hear a whimsical undercurrent in the delivery. 

Andy smirked as she jested in sarcastic disbelief. “Oh, excuse me. You certainly have a different understanding of ethical principles because since when is being polite, daft, Miranda?” 

“When I find it simply incomprehensible that you decided to bore me with an entirely useless question, Andréa. Or has your brain been impaired by your concussion that you suddenly have forgotten that I detest my precious time being wasted?” 

Chuckling, Andy rolled her eyes, both at herself and Miranda, knowing she should’ve seen such a response coming from miles away. Feigning hurt, she said. “I see, well, perhaps I should hang up then. Since I seem to be only wasting your time.” 

“You shall do no such thing, Andréa,” Miranda said, more like demanded, with surprising haste. 

“Oh?” Andy was glad that Miranda couldn’t see her smug expression as she continued to play hurt. “So, you don’t find my brain detestable then?” 

The line was quiet for a moment before Miranda answered. “Although I found the absence of your silly little head at work unacceptably inconvenient, no, I do not find your brain detestable.” 

Despite the condemning tone, Andy could still acknowledge the underlying compliment in Miranda’s statement. With taunting playfulness, Andy asked. “Was that your indirect way of saying that you missed me today, Miranda? Are you growing soft on me now?” 

Miranda scoffed and Andy could perfectly picture the older woman rolling her eyes at her. “Since when have you become so utterly incorrigible, Andréa? It seems you hitting your head has affected your already minuscule amount of brain cells and left some ludicrous deterioration behind. I sincerely hope the damage is not everlasting, your health insurance will most definitely not cover the cost of such an invasive surgery to recover your intellect.” 

“Hm,” Andy hummed as she bit down on the inside of her cheek, stifling an amused laugh, then asked innocently. “Is that your indirect way of saying that you’re worried about me, Miranda?” 

“Hopeless,” Miranda huffed. “Apparently, you have overdone it on the pain medication. I knew I should have called you a home medical caregiver since you are ridiculously hopeless, Andréa.” 

This time, Andy couldn’t restrain her laughter, overjoyed by Miranda’s scintillating, quick-witted banter. “Wow,” Andy breathed, chuckling out her laughter. “You have missed me, huh? Since you seem to be in dire need of venting out a brimming bucket full of flamboyant remarks at me. How incredibly, heartwarmingly sweet of you to include me in your daily contribution of your caustic brilliance to the world. Seriously, I am sorely touched by your compassion and consideration, Miranda.” 

Miranda sniffed in that typical way she does when she’s trying to hide her amusement. “First of all, do not flatter yourself, Andréa. It is entirely unbecoming of you. Secondly, I think I liked you more when you were frightened of me. I never would have thought that I would start to miss your unintelligible blathering state of mind.” 

“So, you do miss me,” Andy laughed winningly, then blinked in mirth. “Oh! And you’ve also admitted that you like me. My, my, you’re certainly feeling generous with your affections today, Miranda. Or is it just you hearing the pleasantness of my voice after a full day of having been neglected of my presence that has you so brazenly sweet-sounding?” 

After another silent pause where Andy imagined for her own satisfaction, a faint blush coloring Miranda’s cheekbones, the older woman cleared her throat, then said in not quite hidden merriment. “I honestly think we need to have you committed to a mental institution, Andréa. There seems to be a problematic defect in the lucidity of your discernment. I have admitted to nothing and I am most certainly nothing of the sort. I cannot even begin to comprehend the preposterous accusations your feeble-minded head has conjured up.” 

Andy chuckled, thoroughly delighted by Miranda’s spirited receptivity at her whimsical assertions. “You know what I find most peculiar, Miranda?” 

“...” 

“Miranda?” 

Miranda sighed, seemingly in torment. “I have a feeling that I am going to regret this.” 

“Regret what?” Andy queried gaily, her cheeks started to hurt from the face-splitting grin that seemed to be permanently plastered on her face since Miranda picked up the phone. 

“What do you find so peculiar, Andréa?” Miranda asked in a strainingly soft voice, but her anguish was loud and clear. 

Trying to sound as if she were adeptly stating facts in a business meeting, Andy said. “You said that you admit to nothing when it comes to missing and liking me, and you disclaimed yourself from my heartfelt reasoning that you’re brazenly sweet-sounding, however, I couldn’t help but notice that you didn’t deny finding my voice pleasant to listen to after not having been in my presence today.”  

Andy smirked as she paused intentionally. “So, within my concussed mind, that consequently suggests that you must’ve missed me after all, and that consequently suggests that you like me as well.”  

She couldn’t contain a chuckle then. “Or, y’know, that might just be the problematic defect in the discernment capabilities of my feeble mind talking. Who knows?” 

Miranda was quiet for a moment. Right when Andy started to think that she might’ve taken things too far, a carefree, breezy laugh tickled the younger woman’s hearing, causing a fulfilling warmth to burst within her chest. Miranda’s laugh was, without a doubt, the most beautiful sound she’d ever heard in her entire life. 

After Miranda chuckled out her laughter, Andy acknowledged that Miranda’s tone had never before sounded as lighthearted as it did right at this moment. “Honestly, Andréa. I am seriously starting to think that you might have actually overdone it on the painkillers. I do not know what else could have induced this blatantly unabashed repartee on your part.” 

Andy beamingly grinned. “I highly doubt that taking only one pill more than the doctor prescribed caused me to behave in such a way, Miranda.” Then, taking a gamble on the luck she’s feeling tonight, she admitted lightly. “Maybe it’s simply because I missed you too.” 

“...” 

Andy checked her phone to see if Miranda was still on the line after what seemed like an eternity of a tensely growing silence. 

“Miranda?” Andy asked softly, afraid that she ventured too far outside Miranda’s comfort zone. 

The clearing of a throat told Andy that Miranda hadn’t forgotten to hang up on her in case she discarded her phone to rid herself of the reckless brunette.  

“I-, you-, what? I mean-” Miranda sounded unquestionably bewildered before she composed herself with another clearing of her throat. “You-, you had to take an extra painkiller?” She asked, voice slightly hollow before a hint of concern colored Miranda’s tone. “Has your headache been that much of an affliction to you today?” 

Fortunately, Andy wasn’t entirely an irrational fool, knowing when to call it quits, and decided that she shouldn’t jeopardize the luck she’s been blessed with by the acceptance of her bold jesting, she turned serious as she answered. “Yeah, sort of, I took an extra one after dinner. It’s been a bit of an excruciating day, and it’s only been worsening since noon. Never thought a headache could be this exhausting.” 

“Then what have you been doing all day? You should be getting an ample amount of rest if you feel so fatigued.” Miranda chided, sounding slightly accusatory, probably trying to come back from her flustered state a minute ago. 

“I have, Miranda,” Andy said a bit too sternly for her own liking. “I crawled straight back into bed when I got home this morning, but there’s only so much sleep a person can get before the body tells you that enough is enough, and decides to reject any more shut-eye.” 

“Have you eaten any food of nutritional value? And are you ensuring that you are abundantly hydrated?” Miranda prompted further. 

“...” 

“Andréa?” 

“I-, well, yes. Maybe?” Andy mumbled apprehensively. 

“Andréa, what have you eaten today?” Miranda asked, eerily soft. 

“Uhm, y’know, soup?” Andy said as she scratched at her good temple. 

“Soup. Is that all? What kind of soup?” A threatening undercurrent was lacing Miranda’s voice. 

“Noodles?” Andy mumbled sheepishly. 

Miranda huffed, condescending incredulity dripping as she said. “Noodles. Ramen noodles, Andréa? You are seriously not telling me that a package of that deplorable excuse of nourishment is all that you have eaten today?”  

“It was chicken flavor,” Andy poorly pointed out. “Chicken soup is widely known to be good for you when you’re ill, y’know.” 

Miranda’s eye-roll could probably be felt from all the way across the pond as she sneered. “When it has actual chicken in it, for God’s sake, and not some atrocious artificial flavor packet.” 

Andy sighed in reluctant defeat. “Yeah, I know. I just hadn’t many other options available. It was either that or some stale crackers with jam that’s probably past its expiration date. I didn’t really feel like going to the store today and honestly, I didn’t have that much of an appetite, to begin with, so, I didn’t want to order something either.” 

Miranda released an exasperated breath, sounding slightly irritated. “Suddenly, my suggestion of you needing a medical caregiver was something that I probably should have taken seriously since it seems that you are entirely incapable of taking care of yourself.” 

Andy huffed in annoyance. “I’m more than capable of taking care of myself, Miranda. It’s just been a bit of a bad day. My head’s been killing me, still is. So, trust me, I would’ve much rather wanted to have been sitting behind my desk at Runway, or have been by your side if you needed to leave the office but unfortunately, I didn’t feel up to doing anything in particular today. The doctor told me to get plenty of rest, I felt that I did indeed needed that, and that’s what I did. So, don’t worry, first thing tomorrow, I’ll be buying myself a whole cart full of unsavory healthy food if that’s what it takes to make you happy.” 

The line went silent once more before Miranda said, her irritation obvious now. “What has my happiness got to do with anything? You should be eating healthier regardless of whatever condition you are in. Needless to say, that is plainly self-explanatory. Society might have deemed take-out, packaged food, or pastries with a ridiculous amount of sugar in it as admissible for juvenile college students, however, an adult should be more rational when it comes to their intake of appropriate sustenance, Andréa.” 

With a heavy heart, Andy realized that Miranda wasn’t even remotely close to being jocular as the condescending remark hit her square in the chest. Frustrated by her pounding headache and agitated by Miranda’s belittling attitude, both provoking Andy’s temper, she grumbled sarcastically. “Funny, it’s not like you to beat around the bush, Miranda, since that was a rather eloquent way of you referring to me as the fat girl you once regretted hiring, right? I already know that I’m not like the other girls that work for you, or like the models you feature in Runway. I know that I don’t have, nor ever will have, the so-called perfect body. So, thank you for so graciously pointing that out to me.” 

There was a short silence on the other end. “That is not what-” Miranda stopped herself and scoffed, then sneered in a barely audible voice. “This is exactly one of the reasons why I prefer my subordinates being fearful of me. At least that way I do not have to deal with pesky little attitudes and be subjected to foolish incessant jabbering that induces regrettable headaches that I much rather had avoided.” 

Andy nearly growled as she retorted. “In case you’ve failed to realize, Miranda. You brought that headache upon yourself if it wasn’t for your busybody attitude, and if you weren’t so hell-bent on mentioning your criticisms about my eating habits.” 

“That is quite enough, Andréa,” Miranda snarled menacingly. “I strongly suggest that you start to reel in that shortsighted temper of yours.” 

“Or what, Miranda?” Andy snarled back. “It seems like you did fail to notice that it was you and your snarky attitude that instigated my temper.” 

Both women fell quiet then, an oppressing tension weighing down on them.  

After a long, excruciating moment, Andy sighed heavily as she rubbed her forehead, trying to alleviate her vicious headache, then mumbled wearily. “Look, Miranda, I’m really sorry for snapping like that. It’s just- I'm feeling rather out of sorts right now. I think I need to lay down for a bit.”  

“Hm,” Miranda hummed quietly. “Very well.” 

With a slightly strained voice, Andy said. “Goodnight, Miranda.” 

“Yes, goodnight,” came the terse response before the line went dead. 

*** 

Tuesday, 00:51 AM  

“Hello?” Andy grumbled into her pillow, still mostly asleep. 

“You are not fat, Andréa,” came the curtly delivered remark. 

Andy rapidly sat up, her free hand flying up to clutch her forehead since the quick motion triggered another painful headache. “Miranda?” She groaned hoarsely. 

“I realize that your temper comes to light when your sensibilities have been afflicted. And when you are in this adverse state of mind, you seem to have the unfortunate tendency to criticize your insecurities in an assailing reprimanded manner, where you perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not, intend to condemn the recipient into a conscience-stricken predicament.” 

“What?” A bout of irritability washed over Andy as she frowned and exasperatingly ran a hand through her hair. “Miranda, what are you talking about? Are you really pointing out another one of my shortcomings at what?” She glanced at her alarm clock on her bedside table. “God, it’s the middle of the night, Miranda.” 

“Breathe easy, Andréa,” Miranda said softly, but strained. “I am not calling to enlighten you about your personality traits.” 

Andy huffed, scrunching her eyes shut, she pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers. “Then what, Miranda? If not to point out your distaste at my quirks, what could you possibly have to say to me that couldn’t wait until morning? Why aren’t you asleep? Because in case you failed to notice that it is the middle of the night, I most definitely was.” 

“Because I could not, Andréa,” Miranda scoffed in annoyance. “As much as it pains me to admit it, you were blatantly successful in your approach at making me feel guilt-ridden. I acknowledge that I might have been judgmental and inadvertently inconsiderate. However, I feel the need to rectify your wrongly concluded presumption that I had negatively commented on your physical appearance.” 

“I wrongly presumed?” Andy said in incredulity. “Miranda, you were rather outspoken about what you think about my health.” 

“Yes, exactly,” Miranda said sternly. “I was thinking about your health, I was not thinking anything of the sort regarding your weight. So, get it through that thick, little head of yours that I was not comparing you to any of the clackers who work for me. There is absolutely nothing wrong about your body, Andréa.” 

Andy blinked in confusion. “Huh?” 

Miranda released an exasperating breath. “In case you have failed to notice, Andréa, which I presume should be highly unlikely, you are clearly suffering from your concussion, and as you have so openly revealed to me that you have barely eaten anything today, malnourishment as well.”  

Miranda paused for a moment as she cleared her throat. “I admit that I might have been a bit unsettled concerning your unintentional disregard for your well-being. That, in addition to your contentious demeanor, might have brought about my own spiteful temperament.”  

She sighed heavily, suddenly sounding weary. “What I am trying to say, Andréa, is that our altercation was caused by a simple misunderstanding. And I-, well, I regre-, I mean, I simply do not approve of how we ended things.” 

Andy needed a moment to let all that Miranda had said in both their phone calls sink in. With startling comprehension, she realized that Miranda had, in fact, made no comment about any sort of dislike regarding her appearance.  

A tidal wave of embarrassment and remorse washed over Andy. “Shit.” 

Miranda huffed. “How eloquent.” 

“I mean-,” Andy groaned. “Fuck.” 

Miranda’s tone dripped with unamused sarcasm as she said. “Yes, that is obviously more articulate.” 

“Miranda,” Andy breathed. “I’m so sorry. God, I’m so, so sorry.  You’re right, I’ve made a massive  misinterpretation.” 

“You don’t say.” Andy could practically see Miranda rolling her eyes at her. 

“Oh, God,” Rubbing at her forehead again, Andy tried to explain. “And I said-, what I said-, Miranda, please know that I honestly didn’t mean any of the things I said to you. You’re right, I do lash out when I’m feeling hurt. My mouth gets the better of me and I say stupid things in spite. I’d take it all back if I could. You didn’t deserve that.” 

An uneasy silence fell between them for several moments. 

“Yes, well, that’s all there is to be said, I suppose,” Miranda said, her voice barely audible. “You should get some rest now, Andréa.” 

“Wait,” Andy said hastily. “Don’t hang up yet.” 

Miranda sighed. “It’s late, Andréa.”  

Andy restrained a huff as she mumbled. “It was late fifteen minutes ago too. Please, hear me out first.” 

“Very well,” Miranda said, sounding slightly irritated. “But do hurry it up. Some of us have to go to work in the morning.” 

Andy freely rolled her eyes, grateful for the fact that Miranda couldn’t see her, then tried to figure out a way to make sense of her jumbled thoughts. “I-, I-, you-, my health.” 

“What?” Miranda sighed irritably once more. 

“You were commenting about my health,” Andy said reflectively, as if she were trying to accept the fact that Miranda had actually been thinking about her in such regards. 

“I thought we had already established that, Andréa,” Miranda grumbled softly. 

Andy frowned. “Yes, but, I guess, well,” She shook her head then, shaking off Miranda’s irritation and tried to convey with as much sincerity as she could muster. “Thank you.” 

Miranda was silent for a moment, then asked, voice slightly tinted with confusion. “For what?” 

Feeling a bit uncertain, Andy queried. “Well, I hope I’m not misinterpreting anything now, but, if you were reprimanding me about my health, did-, does that mean that you were worried about my well-being?” 

“...” 

When no answer was forthcoming, Andy realized that if Miranda actually worried about her, she would more than likely not admit to it. So, Andy knew that she didn’t have much of a choice in the matter to be the one to open up about her feelings. “If so, then, thank you, Miranda.”  

Then, she admitted with a voice barely above a whisper. “It-, it’s nice, uhm, valuable, to have someone-, you-, to have you be concerned about me. Not that I want to unnecessarily trouble you, of course, but, still.”  

She rubbed at the back of her neck, feeling her heart thrum rapidly in her chest. “It means-, it means a lot to me. I guess, I want-, need you to know that I appreciate it-, you. I-, I’m-, you-”  

She sighed, hating the fact that she wanted to say so much more, that she wanted to pour her heart out to the older woman, but knowing, and relenting to the fact that now was undeniably not the right time for such drastic measures. “It just means a great deal to me. So, thank you, Miranda.” 

Eventually, Miranda spoke up again, slightly apprehensive as she asked, sounding more like a statement. “It means a great deal to you?” 

Andy nodded, then realized she needed to speak out loud. “Yes.” She breathed. 

Miranda’s voice dropped to a near whisper again. “You appreciate me?” Again, it sounded more of a statement rather than a question. 

“Yes.” A bout of nervousness was swirling inside Andy’s stomach. 

“You think my attention is valuable?” This time, it sounded more like a question. 

Andy cleared her throat, but her voice still came out raspy. “Yes.” 

The several seconds that ticked by turned into one of the most excruciating moments Andy had ever experienced. 

“Why? Why to everything?” Miranda genuinely asked, sounding slightly out of breath. 

Suddenly, Andry recalled the evening before, when they were at the townhouse, sitting at Miranda’s kitchen table after dinner. Miranda had wanted to know why Andy was always trying so hard to interact with her, as someone more than just her assistant. Then, inevitably wanted to know why Andy cared about her.  

Andy hadn’t felt ready to answer that question then, not without openly admitting that she was in love with her. And just like last time, Andy didn’t know how, didn’t think she could be forthright with her feelings without getting her heart shattered in the process.  

Even if it felt as if her heart would burst out of her chest every time she heard, laid eyes on, or even thought about Miranda, it was as if its release was compromised by the heavy burden of shackles and chains constricting it, weighing it down.  

Shackles and chains that were her insecurities, restraining her means to give a voice to her affections. Holding her back with uncertainty because she wasn’t entirely sure yet if Miranda cared about her in such a profound way like Andy did. Holding her back with concern because Miranda might ridicule, or disregard how she felt about the older woman. And the thickest, heaviest chain of them all that was holding her back, was with fear because of the real possibility that Miranda might reject her, which would consequently become a dreadful end for Andy. An end she couldn’t even let herself think about because the mere thought of it was enough to prompt bleeding cracks into her fragile heart. 

Andy knew she couldn’t give an honest explanation, she didn’t want to lie either, leaving her with only one other choice, the same she’d used the other night, and that was to avoid answering Miranda’s question. 

Andy sighed heavily. “I’m really sorry, Miranda. But can we revisit this conversation some other time? Frankly, I’m too tired and my head’s still killing me, prohibiting me from thinking clearly. And you should get some rest as well.”  

Then, wanting to lighten the austere ambiance between them, Andy jested. “It’s really late and I’m pretty sure that without my ever-helpful assistance, everything at Runway must be a chaotic, incompetent mess. So, you need to bring your A-game tomorrow and ensure that when I return, there’s only minimal damage for me to repair.” 

Miranda was quiet for a moment before she said. “I realize what you are doing, Andréa.” 

Andy gulped guiltily. “I-” 

Miranda interrupted. “I do not know why, but you cannot keep avoiding my questions forever.”  

“I know and I’m sorry,” Andy mumbled. “It’s just-, now’s really not a good time to talk about it. I’m not feeling all that well, to be honest.”  

“Very well.” Miranda sighed. “But do not think I am letting you off the hook, Andréa.” 

“Yeah, didn’t think so,” Andy said with a lopsided smile. 

“Good.” 

“Mhm.” 

Silence enveloped them once more, with both women knowing that their conversation had ended, and yet, neither of them seemed to want to be the first one to end their connection. 

Andy was the first to break their silence, or so she thought. 

“Can I call-” 
“You may call-” 

Andy chuckled as she felt the tension that had oppressed her since Miranda had woken her up elevate from her shoulders. 

“Alright,” They said simultaneously. 

Chuckling once more, Andy said. “Seems like speaking concurrently is starting to become our thing, Miranda.”  

“Hm,” Miranda hummed. “Apparently. However, now that we have established that, we should both get some rest.” 

“Yeah, of course, great idea.” Andy smiled, then whispered. “I’ll hear you tomorrow. Goodnight, Miranda.” 

Miranda responded in an equally soft voice. “And I, you. Goodnight, Andréa.” 

Andy flopped back down onto her back as the call ended, instantly regretting the action as it shot a painful throb in her head, then forgetting all about her headache as she closed her eyes. With a lingering smile, she drifted off to sleep with Miranda’s dulcet soft tones still ringing in her ears. 

Chapter Text

The following morning, Andy was getting ready to go grocery shopping. She was just about to put on her shoes and coat when there was a knock at the door. Andy eyed the front door warily, not expecting any visitors, and she wasn’t all that too familiar with any of her neighbors either. When another knock came, she shrugged her shoulders and turned the lock, opening the door a couple of inches to find a young fellow in what looked like a delivery uniform standing in the hallway. 

“Yes?” Andy asked. 

“I have a delivery for Andrea Sachs,” The young man said. 

“Oh?” Andy opened the door fully, noticing two big boxes on the floor next to the delivery guy. “I didn’t order anything,” She clarified with a questioning look on her face. 

The guy shrugged his shoulders as he held out a clipboard to her. “Someone must’ve ordered it for you then. Would you sign here, please?”  

Once the delivery guy left, Andy curiously looked down at the boxes. Picking one up, she was surprised by how heavy it was. Struggling, she carried the load into the living room, placing them down next to the couch. Opening the first box, Andy’s eyebrows nearly shot off her forehead as she took in its contents. When she opened the second box, she let out a nearly hysterical, incredulous laugh. 

The boxes were filled with food, to be more specific, healthy food. One box was filled with several bags of a variety of fruits and vegetables. The other was filled with packs of whole-grain pasta and rice, containers of vegetable, and yes, chicken soup, along with several other bio and nutritious edibles. 

Andy shook her head in disbelief, feeling thoroughly dumbfounded. She didn’t have to think twice as to who could’ve sent her a kitchen full of groceries, yet, she couldn’t quite believe it either. Rummaging through her purse, Andy grabbed her phone, wrote a text, and send it off with a grin. 

A: Could you be any more unpredictable?  

Whilst unpacking the groceries in the kitchen with merriment, the pinging of her phone on the counter caught her attention. 

M: I am sure that I have no idea as to what you are referring to.  

Chuckling, Andy typed out her response. 

A: So, you are not the reason why my kitchen is now fully stocked with a bunch of unsavory food?  

Andy was surprised when her phone went off only a moment after she’d sent her text. 

M: No, I am most certainly not.  

A: You’re pulling my leg, right?  

M: I am doing nothing of the sort.  

A: So, you really didn’t send me two boxes full of veggies, fruits, and other healthy food? Coz that would be really eerie if you didn’t.  

M: Sounds like such a felony, I may or may not be the culprit you are looking for.  

A: So, you were pulling my leg?  

M: I am not in the habit of repeating myself, Andréa.  

A: I’m confused?  

M: Such a profound revelation. Why am I not surprised?  

A: Seriously, I’m not following. Can you please explain?  

M: Where would be the fun in that?  

A:   Why don’t you just admit that you’d sent me all that stuff?  

M: Stuff? Really, Andréa? I thought you would have expanded your plebeian vocabulary by now.   

Andy huffed as she rolled her eyes, but her grin was still firmly in place. She received another message while she was still typing out her reply. 

M: Do not roll your eyes at me, Andréa.  

Andy blinked, then scratched her head in confusion. 

A: How did you know?  

M: Unlike me, you are rather predictable.  

Andy was about to roll her eyes again, however, she felt self-conscious all of a sudden as if Miranda was literally keeping an eye on her, so, she decided against it. Once again, a message came through while she was still typing her reply. 

M: You were about to do it again, were you not? And do not lie to me, Andréa.  

A: You’re creeping me out. Did you plant a hidden camera in one of those boxes?  

M: Don’t be ridiculous.  

A:  Whatever.  Just admit that it was you who’d sent me those boxes already.  

M: Just this once, I will repeat myself. Don’t be ridiculous. Why would I do such a thing?  

A: Stop playing me, Miranda. Who else would’ve sent me all those groceries?  

M: You tell me.  

A: It could’ve only been you.  

M: What makes you think that?  

A: Gee, I don’t know. Maybe because we had a whole discussion yesterday where I revealed that I had nothing left to eat at home, where you made it quite clear that you think I should start eating healthier. Ring a bell?  

M: Merely a coincidence.   

A: My God, you are absolutely infuriating.  

M: I thought that I was unpredictable?  

A: That too!  

M: Make up your mind, Andréa.  Really, have you learned nothing from under my employ?  

A: Stop it! You’re giving me a headache on top of my headache.  

M: Well, then it is rather fortunate that you have all that nutritious nourishment at your disposal, you might as well make good use of it. Would be such a shame to let all of that go to waste.  

A: Yeah, truly a coincidence, huh? Anyway, thank you, Miranda. You really didn’t have to do that, but I appreciate it immensely.  

M: Do what?  

A: You’re lucky I’m not at the office. I’m this close to giving you a concussion of your own.  

M: My, such an aggressive statement. I never would have pegged you for a barbarian, Andréa. No wonder you only eat indecent food.  

A: You’re evil. Pure evil.  

M: I thought I was unpredictably infuriating. Really, Andréa, you should learn to make up your mind.  It seems like you haven’t learned anything from under my employ, after all.  

A: Don’t you have work to do?  

M: Perhaps, I am currently in a meeting with Irv.  

A: I see, sounds like fun. I’ll leave you to it then. And I mean it, thank you for the gesture, Miranda.  

M: Please, you know full well how much I detest that ridiculous excuse of a little man. You are ending this just to spite me. I thought you would be more grateful than that.  

A: Ha! See, you did send me the food!  

M: And what if I did?  

A: Well, then you’re simply too kind and considerate.  

M: Hm, that sounds nothing like me. You may have the wrong person, after all.  

A: Nice try. You’re not fooling me again.  Why are you even denying it?  

M: You implied that I had sent you unsavory food.  

A: Yeah? I did, because you did.  

M: I did nothing of the sort.  

A: Not this again. I know it was you who send it, Miranda.  

M: Send what?  

A: THE FOOD!!  

M: There is absolutely no reason to be yelling, Andréa. Such a barbarian.  

A: You’re killing me.  

M: With what? Healthy food? Quite the overdramatic, feeble-minded, barbarian.  

A: Feeble mind? Where did that come from?  

M: The fact that you even have to ask, suggests enough.  

A: I give up.  

M: Such a shame. I thought you of all people were more resolute than that.  

A: I blame my concussion. And you. Mostly you.  

M: So accusatorial. I thought you of all people would own up to their shortcomings.  

A: You’re in quite the jocular mood today. Don’t get me wrong, I love this side of you, but what brought this on?  

M: Your feeble mind.  

A: Enjoy your meeting with Irv.  

M: What? Not up for the challenge, Andréa?  Once again, you have proven me right about you not being as resolute as I thought.  

A: I take it back. I hate this side of you.  

M:  So hostile.  For the umpteenth time, seems I was right about you being a barbarian.  

A: Seems I was right about you being pure evil.  

M: So spiteful. Really, Andréa. There is no need to further demonstrate your barbaric qualities. You have established that quite enough already.  

A: Incorrigible. You are an incorrigible, infuriatingly unpredictable, evil creature, Miranda Priestly.  

M: Did you only just figure that out, Andréa? Oh my, seems like we can now add slow-witted to the list of your shortcomings. I honestly hope these traits of yours are due to your concussion and are not everlasting. Being my assistant might become a too difficult job for you if that were to be the case.  

A: Goodbye, Miranda.  

M: Did you figure it out yet?  

A: Figure out what?  

M: In the spirit of me being generous, or is it taking pity on your feeble mind? I will give you a hint.   

A: You’re impossible, but I’ll take it. What’s the hint?  

M: Unsavory.  

A: I’m suffering from a concussion, Miranda. Is that really all you can give me?  

M: Feeble.  

A: Was that another hint?  

M: No, Andréa.   

A: Evil.  

M: Quite the revelation you pointed out.  

A: Will you give me another hint?  

M: What is the magic word?  

A: Please...  

M: I do not accept insincerity, Andréa. You can do better than that.  

A: Will you please give me another hint, Miranda?  

M: Healthy.  

A: You’re ridiculous.  

M: Figure it out yet?  

A: Yeah.  

M: Prove it.  

A: You didn’t send me unsavory food.  

M: What did I send you?  

A: Healthy food.  

M: And what will you do with it?  

A: Make good use of it.  

M: See, you are capable of learning, after all.  

A: I hate you.  

M: You are quite welcome.  

A: Thank you.  

M: Try not to cut off any fingers.  

A: I know how to cook, Miranda.  

M: The feeble-minded, slow-witted barbarian knows how to cook? You could have fooled me.  

A: Hopeless.  

M: Yes, you rather are.  

A: Bye, Miranda. I’ll hear you this evening.  

M: And I, you.  

Andy had been laying on the couch while she’d been texting Miranda. She was looking up at the ceiling with a lovesick grin on her face and jittery flutters in her stomach. Even though Miranda had thoroughly annoyed her, she couldn’t deny that she loved every single minute of it. Miranda’s jocular mood had come as quite the surprise to Andy.  

Andy was undeniably no stranger to Miranda’s dry humor and quick-witted, sarcastic remarks. The older woman threw those around every corner at Runway. However, the big difference was the intention behind them. At work, they were sorely derogatory, if you’d think Miranda delivered those in the spirit of being comical, you couldn’t be more mistaken. Yes, Miranda was viciously scathing, she knew no restraint when it came to insulting her staff, after all. Which had led to her being notoriously known for the many names the industry had given her, such as the Dragon Lady, Snow Queen, Devil in Heels, among other demeaning but equally terrifying monikers. Granted, sometimes Miranda’s merciless tongue could easily be perceived for the sole purpose of being pure insults. However, what people ceaselessly failed to realize was that the older woman always had her mystifying, yet justifiable reasons for acting the way she did. 

Andy had come to comprehend that the real intention behind them was to point out faults and imperfections. Therefore, it was up to you to realize where you had fallen short, so you could learn from your shortcomings. Miranda was merely giving you a push in the right direction, albeit a vicious one, so you could acknowledge where you needed to improve yourself and your work, preventing you from making the same mistake twice. It was simply Miranda’s obscure way of helping you to see where there was room or potential for growth. All on behalf of Miranda expecting nothing less than perfection. She demanded her staff to perform with exquisiteness and faultlessness, to give all that you could possibly give, all in virtue of the fact that Miranda expected nothing less of herself and performed in such strenuous ways as well, every single day in and day out. 

The side of Miranda Andy had been privy to for the past couple of days, had been in the spirit of friskiness. The intention behind Miranda’s banter had been for the purpose of humorous engagements and Andy couldn’t be more delighted by the unveiling of such a development. She’d always known the older woman had a playful side to her, she’d borne a fleeting witness to it, to whatever small extent it may have been. So, to have been on the receiving end of such freely provided repartee had been such an eyeopener, revealing another glimpse of the real Miranda Priestly. It was as if Miranda had deliberately lowered her walls, meaning that she was opening herself up to the younger woman. And Andy was quite certain that she had never received a more beautiful gift before.  

And speaking of gifts, the fact that Miranda had taken the liberty to send her two boxes full of food because she wanted Andy to eat healthier, the mere thought of having Miranda consider her in such a way was equally mind-boggling.  

There was no denying it now, Miranda cared about her. Andy didn’t know how she’d done it, or why Miranda even did, but it was now a fact, a fact that launched Andy all the way over the moon and back. Only to come crashing down into reality because Andy still needed to know the why and how of the matter. To what extend did Miranda care about her, that’s what she truly needed answers to.  

Andy had vowed to herself that she would try to be more courageous, to navigate their ship out of the storm, out of the mist clouding their journey, and unlock the chains that were holding them back to communicate, to clear and clarify the parts of them that were being kept in the dark. 

However, the ironic truth of the matter was, the two times where Miranda had asked Andy to clarify more about what she was feeling, Andy had felt too compromised by the heavy burden of her shackles and chains that were her insecurities. Andy was still too uncertain, too concerned, and too fearful to be more adventurous in Miranda’s uncharted territory.  

The tragedy about Andy’s situation was that she had never been the type of person to back down from a challenge. Andy was an ambitious go-getter, the type to take the bull by its horns, mount its back, and wield her new accomplishments to her own advantage. 

But the true hardship in Andy’s tragic tale was that she had never encountered such a mystical, yet emotional crucible before. The uphill trials that had been the stepping stones in Andy’s endeavors had been overcome with seemingly relative ease due to her confidence and determination being her trustworthy companions throughout her journey that is her life. But she had never ventured upon a creature such as precarious and perilous as love before. Her insecurities and wavering resolution were a too heavy cross to bear to climb the mountainous ordeal to reach the pinnacle and triumph in the romantic chapter of her odyssey.  

Up until now, she had tried to be the hero in their story, venturing out on a quest to overthrow and slay the Dragon that was terrorizing powerless peasants. Only to have realized that the Dragon had simply been trying to preserve and protect its well-earned treasures from greedy and menacing vultures, causing Andy to sympathize, grow compassionate, and understand Miranda’s antagonistic nature. Therefore, Andy’s motives had changed along the way, she was no longer set out to slay and conquer, but to tame and befriend the Dragon. However, what she hadn’t counted on is how madly and recklessly in love she’d fallen with such a mystifying and magical creature. She felt way out of her depth, didn’t feel that she was strong enough to approach the Dragon and bear out her heart’s contents in fear of it being burned into ashes, inevitably being swept away into nothingness with the gust of wind by the Dragon’s wings.  

So, long story short, Andy’s fear of being rejected was too overpowering, its possibility still too real within her mind. Thus, all she thought she could do was live through this journey day by day, and continue to cautiously and attentively test out Miranda’s waters until she had more insight about Miranda’s thoughts and feelings to go on. Therefore, she could start to neutralize her insecurities, build up her confidence, and finally be forthright with her emotions. 

*** 

Tuesday, 8:32 PM  

“Hello, Andréa,” Miranda greeted her warmly. 

“Hi, Miranda,” Andy said, feeling utterly delighted to hear Miranda’s voice again. “I’m sorry for calling so late. I’d fallen asleep on the couch after dinner, I’ve only now just woken up.” 

“It is quite alright,” Miranda said reassuringly. “Perhaps you would like to speak to the girls first before they go to bed.” 

Andy grinned. “Yeah, I’d like that.” 

“I will put you on speaker then.” 

“Hi, Andy,” came the dual response. 

“Hiya, girls. How’ve you been?” 

“Great,” Caroline began. “Mom let us have ice cream after dinner because I aced my math test. I put a whole bunch of chocolate sauce and sprinkles on mine, because, y’know, that’s the best way to go about it, I’m sure you must know all about that.” 

“Caroline.” Andy heard Miranda chastise in the background. 

Andy chuckled. “I agree on the sauce, the sprinkles, however, is not really my cup of tea.” 

“Really?” Caroline asked in disbelief. “Could’ve fooled me.” 

“Oh, for heaven’s sake.” Miranda’s exasperated complaint came through once more, causing Andy to laugh. 

“I finished another painting today,” Cassidy announced. “My teacher said it’s my best work yet. Mom has said so too.” 

“That’s great, Cass. Can’t wait to see it for myself,” Andy proclaimed, a bout of pride for the twins’ achievements warming up her chest. 

“When will you?” Cassidy queried. 

“Oh, I don’t-,” Andy cleared her throat. “Next time I’m visiting, I guess?” 

Caroline interjected then. “Well, duh, obviously. But when?” 

“Uhm, I-, well, you tell me?” Andy asked, feeling a bit unsure as she didn’t just want to invite herself over to the townhouse without Miranda’s approval. 

“How about Friday?” Cassidy asked. “We’ve got some time after school. Afterward, you can have dinner with us, but Dad’s picking us up after.” She mumbled quite unenthusiastically then, “It’s his weekend with us.” 

“Sounds good to me, but you should really ask your mother first if it’s alright, girls.” 

“Mom!” Andy had to hold the phone away from her ear at Caroline’s yell. 

Miranda’s stern voice came through then. “How many times do I have to tell you, Caroline. There is absolutely no need for you to be yelling when I am in the same room as you.” 

“Sorry,” Caroline said, not sounding apologetic at all. “Can Andy come over on Friday?” 

“Why wait until Friday?” Miranda inquired softly, as if she didn’t want to be heard over the phone. 

“I’ve got dance practice tomorrow,” Caroline said in a tone as if the answer should’ve been obvious. 

“And I’ve got my piano lessons on Thursday,” Cassidy added, sounding much more rational. 

“So, we can only do Friday,” Caroline reasoned, sounding irritable all of a sudden. “Unless we don’t have to go to Dad’s, just sayin’.” 

Miranda sighed. “You know just as much as I do that you can no longer postpone a visit to your father’s, girls. It has been too long already. Unfortunately, I am sure that he will not acquiesce to another week’s delay.” 

“Yeah, we know,” Cassidy mumbled. 

“Still sucks though,” Caroline huffed. 

“Caroline,” Miranda breathed, sounding exhausted as she said, “Please, moderate your tone.” 

“Sorry,” Caroline grumbled. “I just really don’t wanna go, y’know. I’d much rather have Andy over at weekends.” 

“Yeah,” Cassidy joined in. “He never does anything with us once we’re there anyway. Not like Andy, she plays with us all the time when we’re together.” 

The line went quiet for a moment where Andy started to grow a bit nervous as to Miranda’s reaction to the twins’ proclamation. 

“I see,” Miranda said softly, an undistinguishable subdued tone lacing her voice. “Well, then, Andréa is more than welcome to come over on Friday.” 

“Alright!” The twins chorused gleefully. 

“Mom said it’s okay, Andy,” Caroline announced excitedly. 

Andy released a breath she’d been holding. “Great. Awesome. Alright then. So, what time should I come over?” 

“We’re home at four,” Cassidy informed.  

“So, be here at four,” Caroline demanded. 

Andy laughed as she shook her head. “You got it, girls.” 

“Very well,” Miranda said. “Now that we have that established, it is time for you to prepare for bed. I will be up in a minute, Bobbseys. Say your goodbyes to Andréa.” 

“Goodnight, Andy. See yah on Friday. Don’t be late.” Caroline giggled. 

“I wouldn’t dare.” Andy chuckled. “Goodnight and sweet dreams, kiddo.” 

“Oh!” Cassidy gasped in realization. “We haven’t even asked you how you’ve been doing, Andy. How’s your headache been?” 

Andy smiled affectionately. “It’s been alright, sweetie. Getting better every day, I promise.” 

“Good,” Cassidy declared. “Remember, eat lots of healthy food, drink lots of water, and take a lot of naps, okay?” 

Andy laughed merrily. “You got it, boss.” 

“Alrighty,” Cassidy giggled. “Goodnight, Andy. See you soon.”  

“Goodnight, Cass. Sweet dreams to you too.” 

“Andréa?” Miranda said, voice a lot clearer, meaning she’d probably turned off the speaker function. 

“Yes, Miranda?” 

“I will call you back once I have put the girls to bed, if that’s alright?” Miranda asked softly. 

“Of course, it is, Miranda.” Andy smiled warmly. 

“Very well, then.” 

Suddenly, the line went dead, causing Andy to laugh once more. 

*** 

Tuesday, 9:14 PM  

Andy picked up after the first ring. “Hi, again.” 

But a response wasn’t forthcoming. 

“Miranda? Are you there?” Andy asked. 

“Yes, I am here,” Miranda nearly whispered, sounding a little out of spirits. 

“Is everything alright?” Andy asked, feeling a bit worried about the suddenly dim ambiance. 

“I-,” Miranda began, then cleared her throat. “The girls...” She trailed off. 

Treading carefully, Andy asked softly. “Did something happen?”  

“No, nothing has happened.” Miranda sounded hesitant. “They are just-” She trailed off again. 

“Hey,” Andy whispered reassuringly. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. Just know that I’m here to listen if you do want to, alright?” 

The line went quiet for a moment, with Andy trying to get a grip on the nerves she was suddenly feeling. 

After what seemed like an eternity, Miranda broke the silence between them. “They have become rather fond of you,” She said in a slightly strained voice. 

“Oh,” Andy breathed, then asked warily, “Is-, is that, I don’t know, is that a bad thing?” 

When Miranda didn’t answer, Andy spoke up again, “I’m-, I’m sorry, if that makes you uncomfortable? I-, I hadn’t seen it coming either, but, I-, well, I’ve become rather fond of them as well. I guess, I just want you to know that I-, y’know, I mean, I just hope that you’re not too bothered with it?” 

“It does not really bother me, Andréa,” Miranda declared reassuringly. “I suppose that I am just a little surprised by it. I am not entirely sure why though, since I have seen the development growing right in front of my eyes.” 

Cautiously, Andy ventured forward. “Then, why do you almost make it sound like, I don’t know, like you don’t really approve of it? Or am I misinterpreting something, Miranda?” 

“Andréa,” Miranda said, sounding a lot more resolute than just a moment before. “Listen very carefully because I am only going to say this once.” 

Andy nearly flinched as she whispered, “Alright.” 

“I do not mind you spending time with my children. My biggest concern in life is their happiness and they are happy when they get to spend time with you. Therefore, stop your worrying about me not approving your relationship with them because I do approve of it. So far, you have been a good influence on them and God only knows they need more of that in the degradingly corrupt society that we are currently living in. And even though it pains me to admit it, they will have an even more difficult life than most in our society as they grow up, because of the conditions I have created for them due to my social status.” 

Miranda breathed out a sigh, her tone taking on a sorrowful quality as she continued, “They are still so very young, Andréa. However, they have already encountered so many disappointments and I-” Miranda’s voice cracked emotionally then. 

Clearing her throat, Miranda continued, and Andy had never before heard such vulnerability in Miranda’s voice that it was painfully tugging at Andy’s heartstrings. “I am afraid that I cannot deny that my choices have been the main reason for their misfortune. My job, their father, Stephen, even I as their mother have all been one big disappointment after the other.” 

Inhaling a shaky breath, Miranda seemed to regain some of her composure again. “Since the beginning of my divorce, I have vowed to myself that I will do better by them. Therefore, I need you to promise me something, Andréa.” 

Miranda paused then, clearly waiting for Andy to speak up. “I’m listening, Miranda,” She said, surprised at the steadiness in her own voice. 

“I am allowing you to be a part of my children’s lives, Andréa. I am letting you into our home, into our lives. I have chosen to bury the debacle that is Paris and everything that came after into our past and-”  

Miranda paused for a moment, voice growing softer, “I am trusting you, Andréa. I am trusting you with my children and my hea-” She cleared her throat. “And their lives. Therefore, I need you to promise me, promise me that you will not be another disappointment to them, Andréa. I know that you realize that being a part of my life comes with its fair share of difficulties and predicaments that you may not always agree to or approve of. However, I will not tolerate you turning your back on them. Whatever foreseeable issue you might have with me, cannot be a reason why you decide to hurt them by leaving.” 

After a hushed intake of breath, Miranda continued. “Thus, it is up to you now, Andréa. With the insight and knowledge, you now possess about everything that you have come to know about me, about everything you have witnessed and experienced so far, about the life I lead. It is now up to you to decide if you want to be a part of that. I promise I will not hold it against you if you choose to back out now, but if you do it after the promise you now might make, then I promise you, Andréa, that I will not be so forgiving as I have been after you had left me in Paris.”  

After another short pause, Miranda said, “So, what will it be, Andréa? You may take your time to think this through, of course.” 

With as much conviction as Andy possessed, she began. “I don’t need a moment to think this through, Miranda. Believe it or not, but I have made up my mind about this quite some time ago. I need you to know that I clearly understand the crucial importance of what you just explained to me. Trust me, I have learned from my mistakes in and since Paris, and not even over my dead body will I allow something like that to ever happen again. Especially now, because I know, I know that it’s not just about us anymore, Miranda. It’s about the twins as well, mostly the twins, because they are the innocent ones in this situation. They should not be the ones to suffer from our mistakes and shortcomings. I understand that being an adult in their lives is a conscientious position I now hold, one that I do not take lightly.”  

Andy cleared her throat before she unwaveringly continued. “As I said before, I care about your children, and I care about you, Miranda. Therefore, I promise that I will do my utmost best to be a good influence on them. I promise that I will try to protect them from the injustices that will fall upon them as they continue to grow up. I promise that I will help them through whatever obstacles or hurt they will encounter. I promise that I will not allow them to bear the repercussions of personal issues or the fallout of conflict that may occur. I promise you that and so much more, Miranda.” 

She took a deep breath before venturing further with her declarations. “And the fact that you even brought this up, is one of the reasons why you could never be a disappointment to them, Miranda. There will be times when they’ll be sad or angry, but that will never mean that they’ll love you any less. They talk about you all the time, as they constantly seem to have a never-ending list of questions because they care about you, want to know more about you, and what you are doing. And even when there is no reason to, they can’t seem to help themselves but to worry about you. All they really want is to understand you.”  

Andy frowned slightly but she let her voice soften. “You don’t have to take this from me, but I know that you’re not a disappointment to them as you make yourself out to be. Yes, you’ve made mistakes in your life, but guess what, so have I, and so has everyone else on this planet. We’re only human, Miranda. And here’s a not-so-fun fact, we’ll continue to make mistakes for as long as we live. However, what truly matters is how we learn from them and what we do with that knowledge. Our mistakes have helped us to grow. That’s some essential wisdom we can now bestow upon your children. Wisdom and knowledge we can now wield to protect them, and guide them.” 

Andy smiled gently as she gazed up at the ceiling. “Unfortunately, we can’t make our lives be as perfect as you try to make Runway. Sometimes, things are just beyond our abilities and control. I get that, and so do Cassidy and Caroline. They may still be very young, for sure, but they’re smart, gosh they’re so freaking smart. And from what I have witnessed and seen within them, they already understand more than you and I might think. They’re so sympathetic, compassionate, and honest, and let’s not forget witty. I mean, gosh, Miranda, the love they portray for each other, for you, the way I feel how they care about me, how passionate they are, the way they think and view the world, I mean, seriously, they’re amazing kids, Miranda. And I have no doubt whatsoever that they’ll continue to grow and mature in ways that you nor I even thought was possible. So, don’t be so hard on yourself when you come across a stumbling block, because it’s only a stepping stone, y’know. It will be that way for them too, that’s just life.” 

Andy blinked out of her contemplative reverie, a bout of shyness washing over her. “So, I guess, what I’m really trying to say is, well, you’re stuck with me, Miranda, you and the twins, whether you like it or not. I promise. So, yeah, that’s that, I guess. Sorry, I didn’t realize I was rambling.” 

When Miranda didn’t respond, Andy glanced at her phone to see if their call was still connected. 

“Miranda? You still there?” Andy asked timidly. 

“Yes, I am still here, Andréa.” 

“Oh, good.” Andy breathed. 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed softly. “Yes, quite.” 

Silence fell upon them, oppressing Andy with nervousness, but she figured Miranda might need some time to think for whatever reasons that may be, so she remained quiet. 

“Andréa,” Miranda finally said. 

“Yes, Miranda?” Andy quietly asked. 

“Thank you,” Miranda gently whispered. “You-, you continue to astonish me with your eloquence. Granted, it does not happen too often, but when it does, well, consider me pleasantly surprised.” 

Andy let out a relieved and joyous laughter. “Guess I’m not as predictable as you thought, huh?” 

“So, it seems.” Miranda chuckled. 

Grinning, Andy asked curiously, “So, did I pass the test?” 

“Yes, Andréa,” Miranda said lightly. “You did so remarkably.” 

“Wow,” Andy breathed in merry disbelief. “That well, huh? Considering that’s really high praise coming from you. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you utter the word ‘remarkably’ at Runway before.” 

“Well,” Miranda drawled. “That is because I most likely have not.” Then, with a soft, yet sincere voice, beautifully caressing Andy’s hearing. “And, well, you have not been a part of the equation before.” 

Within the blink of an eye, Andy’s blush blossomed in full bloom on her face as her heart suddenly picked up several paces. Rubbing at the back of her neck, she stumbled sheepishly. “I-, I-, Jesus, Miranda, I mean, Christ. That’s-, you-, y’know, God.”  

If Andy thought Miranda’s voice sounded more beautiful than usual before, the laughter that was now coming through the phone was a heartfelt resemblance to the nectar of the Gods themselves. “I am hardly any sort of God, Andréa.” 

“Could’ve fooled me,” Andy mumbled. 

Miranda cleared her throat then, however, it was as if Andy could still hear the smile in her voice. “You are ridiculous.” 

Andy smirked as she shrugged her shoulders. “If you say so, but you still like me for it anyway.” 

Andy expected Miranda to fall silent at that, so it came as a pleasant surprise when the older woman chuckled as she said, “Yes, it appears that I do.” 

Her blush glowing impossibly brighter, Andy sheepishly stumbled over her words once more. “Oh, well, that’s good-, great. I mean, great-, that’s just great. Better, I guess, yeah, y’know, better than great.” 

After another laugh as sweet as honey, Miranda jested, “Oh my, seems like you can never hold on to your eloquence for more than just a couple of minutes. Has your silly brain run out of its articulate capacities already, Andréa?” 

Andy huffed playfully. “To be fair, y’know, and in my defense, it’s not every day one gets complimented on by none other than Miranda Priestly.” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed. “And me complimenting you is reason enough to turn you into a flustered, blathering mess?” 

Chuckling shyly, Andy answered, “Well, seems that way, doesn’t it?” 

“Yes,” Miranda whispered. “So, it seems.” 

Falling into a comfortable silence, Andy glanced at the clock on her wall. “Oh, it’s nearly half-past ten,” Andy proclaimed. 

“Yes, so it seems, again.” Miranda acknowledged lightly. 

“I-, I shall let you go then. You still have the Book to go over, right?” Andy said, feeling reluctant to end their conversation, but never failed to be considerate about Miranda’s work. 

Miranda sighed. “Yes, I do. And you should get some more rest. The sooner your concussion fades, the better.” 

With a delightful warmth brimming in her chest, Andy breathed. “Yeah, the sooner, the better.” 

“Very well, then. I will hear you tomorrow?” Miranda asked softly. 

“Yeah.” Andy grinned widely. “And I, you. Have a good night, Miranda.” 

“Goodnight, Andréa.” 

Chapter Text

Wednesday, 2:03 PM  

“I cannot for the life of me even begin to comprehend the outrageous atrocities one can commit when given the most elementary, self-explanatory directives that even an untrained monkey could perform. Honestly, Andréa, what have you been thinking when you approved of that birdbrain? All that imbecile has done since your absence is prove that it is entirely possible for one person to be dimwitted and incompetent enough to such ludicrous extents, to drive a whole industry into its ruination. This is not just merely ridiculous, Andréa, it is utterly preposterous, and that is even an outright understatement,” came the irritably expressed rant when Andy answered her phone after the first ring. 

Andy chuckled as she sat up from where she’d been lying down on the couch and turned off the TV, thinking how much she enjoyed the fact that Miranda now turned to her, seemingly relaxed, or rather, untroubled enough with their relation to openly talk about anything that was bothering the older woman. 

It was as if, over the course of the last week or so, one of Miranda’s many walls had started to come crumbling down with every conversation they’ve had, making way for a foundation of comfortable communication between them as they now seemed to easily interact with one another through light-heartedly delivered repartee or freely provided banter, without worrying about their growing affinity being unprofessional in nature. 

Miranda’s aggravated voice came through the line again before Andy even had a chance to speak. “Pray tell, Andréa, what could you possibly find so amusing about this debacle that is fundamentally your wrongdoing?” 

Smirking, Andy rolled her eyes as she shook her head. “Well, hello to you too, Miranda. I’m feeling better, thank you for asking. And I am utterly delighted to hear about the pleasant day you’ve been having so far, but it almost makes me sad that I seem to be missing out on so much fun. Or is you making me jealous, your objective all along?” 

Miranda huffed. “Be assured, Andréa, I am being absolutely serious. You have truly no idea how frustrating it is that I cannot rectify this headache myself by simply firing the girl since it will leave me with no assistant to take up the slack. How is it that you were able to keep the office running as competent as you did while working with such a nitwit? I know that you have been doing most of the work, more than that is actually required of you since you could have easily passed on a fair share of your workload to her, but did you even bother to train her? The girl can do absolutely nothing right, all she has been doing is make problems even worse, for God’s sake.” 

Andy blinked. “How did you-, I mean, you knew-, know, about that? About me doing most of the work?” 

“Of course, I do, Andréa,” Miranda answered sternly, as if Andy couldn’t have asked a more foolish question. “I know everything that goes on at Runway. Well, except for the fact that there had been an idiot with the brain capacity of a neanderthal mucking about within these walls. That oversight needn’t have required my attention up until now due to you keeping everything functioning adequately enough. However, I can no longer ignore such a transgression, Andréa. The girl will undoubtedly need to go upon your return. Unfortunately, that means that in the meantime, I have to deal with the destruction the cretin is leaving in her wake.” 

Andy winced, realizing that Miranda wasn’t even remotely close to feigning overdramatization, then she warily asked, “What did Claire do?” 

Miranda scoffed. “Where do I even begin? She forgot to take fundamental notes on meetings, lost thousands of dollars worth of samples as well as essential documents, spilled water on her computer, nearly setting her desk on fire, ruined a shoot because she booked the wrong date for the venue, delivered unsatisfactory coffee more times than you can even begin to imagine, ordered a revolting well-done steak, and the flower arrangements that are dispersed around my office all have freesias in them, need I go on, Andréa?” 

“Oh my God,” Andy breathed. “Okay, you’re right, that’s just ridiculous. I never would’ve thought she’d make so many mistakes in just a couple of days’ time.” 

“No, Andréa,” Miranda grumbled. “The twit did all of that today.” 

“Fuck,” Andy gasped in disbelief as she got up from the couch. 

“Quite.” Miranda sighed, suddenly sounding weary. “Do you now see what I have to deal with, Andréa? For heaven’s sake, in the twenty years that I have been running the magazine, I have never come across this level of incompetence before.” 

Walking into her bedroom, Andy took off her t-shirt, then jested, “Think you can manage not to kill her, or anyone else for that matter, within the next hour?” 

“If things continue the way they are now, I fear that such a scenario will be entirely possible.” Miranda paused for a short moment. “Why?” 

“Because I-, ouch, shit.” Andy groaned as she stubbed her toe against the dresser while she was taking off her sweatpants. 

“Andréa?” Miranda questioned. “Is something wrong?” 

“Sorry,” Andy mumbled. “Just banged my toe while undressing.” 

“Undressing?” Miranda asked, her voice sounding slightly higher than usual. “What are you-, I mean, why?” 

Cradling the phone between her ear and shoulder, Andy breathed as she pulled up a pair of jeans, “Because I’m coming over.” 

“You are coming...” Miranda trailed off. Sounding a little confused, she asked, “What are you talking about? I did not ask of you to come here, Andréa.” 

Buttoning up her shirt, Andy said with conviction, “I know, but I’m coming over to help, anyway. Claire’s mess is sort of my mistake too, so, I’m going to fix this.” 

“No, Andréa,” Miranda said sternly. “I did not intend for you to take it seriously when I blamed you for that idiot’s incompetence. You should be resting, and not burden yourself with wanting to rectify someone else’s failures.” 

“It’s no burden, Miranda, I’m happy to help,” Andy said as she tied her hair up in a messy bun. “Besides, I’ve been going slightly crazy with boredom just sitting around my apartment all day. I want to feel useful, even if it is just for a couple of hours.” 

“Andréa-” Miranda began to object again but was cut off. 

“I’m coming over, Miranda,” Andy said sternly. “Whether you like it or not.” 

Miranda sighed in reluctance. “Very well. However, I will only allow you to work for a couple of hours, Andréa. And if I see you showing even the slightest hint of discomfort due to your concussion, I am sending you straight back home.” 

Grabbing her bag after she’d donned her coat, Andy grinned as she nodded. “Alright, you’ve got yourself a deal, Priestly.” Andy blinked. “I-, I mean, Miranda. I’m on my way.” 

“And do not even dare to use the subway, Ms. Sachs. Take a taxi, I will pick up the tab,” Miranda said in a no-nonsense tone. 

Locking up her front door, Andy grinned. “Was already planning on it, but I’m not letting you pay for it. Honestly, it’s no problem.” Running down the stairs, she said, “I’m gonna make a few calls now. I’ll see you soon, Miranda.” 

“Alright,” Miranda said softly. “And I, you.” 

*** 

Exiting the elevator onto the Runway floor, Andy was very much aware of the disapproving glances thrown her way because of the casual attire she was wearing, taking her back to the first time she’d walked down these halls. She couldn’t help but proudly recognize how much she’d changed over the course of a year. Without a single care in the world as to what people might think of her, Andy strode down the halls with a purposeful gait in her step. When she entered the anteroom, the second assistant was nowhere to be found. Approaching the threshold to the inner office, Andy was glad to see that the bouquets in the office were currently being replaced by Miranda’s customary florist. 

“Oh!” The florist smiled as she noticed Andy approaching her. “Hi, Andy. Good to see you. You gave everyone down at the shop quite the scare when you called.” 

“Hiya, Madelyn.” Andy politely greeted the older woman. “I’m sorry ‘bout that, but I can’t tell you how grateful I am for delivering these on such short notice.” 

“Pfft, don’t even mention it.” Madelyn waved her hand dismissively. “We’re always happy to help you, dear.” Fixing a few flowers in place, she said, “They turned out beautifully, didn’t they? You got a great eye for flowers, Andy.” 

Andy shrugged. “Not really. I just know they’re Miranda’s favorites.” 

Madelyn nodded, then grinned as she looked over Andy’s shoulder. “Hello, Miranda. Just finished fixing the final piece for you. I hope they’re to your liking.” 

Turning around to face Miranda, Andy’s breath left her as her eyes took in the silver-haired woman. Wearing a shimmering satin, sapphire blue wrap blouse, tucked in a pearl river grey pencil skirt, and four-inch black Prada heels, Miranda was undeniably an exquisite sight to behold, driving Andy’s senses into overload for having been deprived of such a vision since she’d been home. 

Looking at Madelyn, Miranda gave a curt nod instead of her usual cold-delivered dismissal, which the florist took as her cue to take her leave. 

“’Till next time, Andy,” Madelyn said. 

“Bye, Madelyn. And thanks again.” Andy smiled. 

Once the florist left, Miranda walked over to the side of her desk, hand reaching up to gently caress a petal of a red camellia between her thumb and forefinger. For the first time since she’d entered the office, Miranda gazed up at Andy with a tender smile and curious eyes. 

“How did you know which ones are my favorite?” Miranda asked softly. 

Smiling shyly, Andy shrugged. “I-, I just picked up on it over time, I guess.” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed as she inclined her head to the side. “How?” 

 “Well, I’ve been, y’know, paying attention to, uhm, you.” Fighting against her rising blush, Andy cleared her throat. “I’ve noticed that your eyes linger a bit longer when you like a particular arrangement.” 

“I see,” Miranda said, then looked back down at the red flower, her gentle smile fading slightly as a wistful look glazed over her eyes. “My grandmother had camellia trees all over her garden.” She paused for a short moment, her voice softening to a near whisper, causing Andy to lean in. “They bloomed beautifully every single year.” 

With a tender smile, Andy asked quietly, “Are they a good memory? Or do they make you sad?” 

Turning her head away from the younger woman, Miranda gazed out the window and fiddled with her necklace. After a moment, she admitted, “A balanced combination of both, I suppose.” 

Andy cautiously ventured further. “They don’t bother you then? Seeing them in your office? Just, for, y’know, future reference. So, I’ll know if I should include them or not from here on out.” 

Miranda shook her head. “Perhaps not in my office next time. However..." Her voice faded as she looked back at Andy. “I would not mind seeing them more around the house.” 

Andy nodded once. “Consider it done.” 

They gazed deeply at one another for a long substantial moment, right when Andy started to feel herself getting lost in the blue depth, Miranda’s soft features turned into a look of cold indifference as she glanced over Andy’s shoulder, then went so sit behind her desk. Slightly confused, Andy turned around to see Ian, the IT-tech she’d called from the cab on her way over, idling in the anteroom. 

“Alright, time to get to work,” Andy said, straightening her posture in resolution, and walked out of Miranda’s office. 

“Hey, Andy,” Ian greeted friendly. 

“Hi, Ian. So, what’s up? Were you able to fix Claire’s computer?” 

Ian shook his head. “I’m afraid that computer’s a goner. Tech’s on his way over with a new one. If you could just log into yours, I can just copy the files onto it when I’m setting it up.” 

“Sure,” Andy said. Taking off her coat, she sat behind her desk and waited for her computer to boot. “Here you go. I trust I can leave the rest up to you?” 

“Of course.” Ian nodded. 

“Great.” Andy stood back up. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have some unfortunate blunders to rectify.” 

*** 

After around two hours later, Andy walked back into Miranda’s office, placing a center-of-the-sun hot, no-foam skimmed latté with an extra shot, and a manila folder on the glass desk. With a huff, she sat down, slouching into one of the chairs across Miranda’s desk. 

Miranda lifted her head from the document she was reading and narrowed her eyes, lips slightly pursed at the younger woman’s audacity. 

“Sorry,” Andy mumbled shyly, belatedly realizing her boldness as she hastily righted herself into straighter posture.  

It was then that Andy noticed the slight twitch at the corner of Miranda’s lips, and upon closer inspection, as Andy narrowed her own eyes, she definitely saw the amusement glimmering in Miranda’s eyes. 

“Oh,” Andy breathed, then grinned. “My God, Miranda, even your pretend death-stare is scary.” 

Smirking, Miranda said, voice taking on a soft threatening tone, “What makes you think I was pretending anything, Andréa?” 

“Hm,” Andy hummed as she frowned slightly. “Well, I guess I’ll just-” Andy stood up then and was about to turn around to stand at her usual spot behind the chairs but, just as she predicted, she was halted by Miranda. 

“Oh, just sit down, Andréa.” 

Andy grinned winningly as she sat back down. “So, you were just pretending your look-of-doom, huh?” 

Miranda rolled her eyes seemingly in annoyance, however, the nearly imperceptible tilt at the corners of her lips gave away her amusement. “I would think that you knew me better by now, Andréa, or am I wrong?” 

Andy shook her head as she chuckled. “No, you’re not wrong. Just took me a little bit longer to read-, I mean, figure you out this time, but to be fair, you’re a true master at facial expressions, Miranda. I just had to really look into your eyes to realize you were playing me, and also, y’know.”  

Andy pointed her fingers at the corners of her own lips. “You seem to have a harder time controlling your smile than your eyes. I suppose that makes it a bit more difficult.” 

Miranda raised an eyebrow, then smirked as she asked curiously, “Difficult how?” 

Andy realized she’d just fallen into a trap of her own making as she flustered and stumbled over her words. “Well, it’s not like, y’know, I can just stare-, look, at your mouth when I-, I mean, instead of gaz-, looking into your eyes,” Andy said as she cursed the blush she felt blooming on her cheeks. 

Miranda softly chuckled in such a seemingly wicked way that it did a great deal of fluttering things to Andy’s insides.  

Andy cleared her throat then as she tried to steer the attention away from her flustered state. “Accounting, editorial, and legal will be sending you the notes on today’s meetings before the day is through. Claire’s computer’s all fixed, and I took the liberty to send off and reply to today’s emails, we should be back on track with everything now. I was able to track down the copies of the list of documents you’d sent me, they’re in that folder. The Tom Ford shoot is rescheduled and regulated to Monday.” 

Reaching up to rub her forehead due to the slight headache she was feeling, she diverted her hand to rub at the back of her neck at the last moment, thinking better of it while sitting in front of Miranda, even though the older woman was looking down at her desk again, scrutinizing a spread. “I’m afraid we’ll go over a bit above budget on that one.” Andy continued. “There wasn’t much I could do to govern on that front. Luckily, Claire took a cab on Runway’s expense when she was out to retrieve Posen’s samples, and fortunately, the driver was one of the good ones, he turned the bags in. After some, well, admittingly rather ungraceful pleading on my part, I was able to convince Emily to go get them because, y’know, didn’t want to leave that up to Claire again. And on that note, I contacted HR, they gave me several résumés to look through. I’ll go over them at home and give notice to HR about the ones I think have the most potential, they’ll contact the candidates tomorrow, and conduct the interviews on Friday.” 

With a contented smirk, Andy said, “So, you’re free to fire Claire before you begin your weekend, and on Monday, when I’m back, I’ll train her replacement.” She turned serious once more. “And I promise, I’ll do better this time, make sure the new second assistant is adequately reliable and competent. I suppose should apologize for that error. I might’ve been rather reluctant to relinquish most of my tasks because I-, well, I guess I liked doing them for you,” Andy admitted softly. 

After Andy was done talking, Miranda looked up from the spread she was scrutinizing, picked up her coffee cup, took a sip, and sat back in her seat with a satisfied sigh. “I had assumed that such was the case. There is no real reason for you to apologize, Andréa. I cannot deny that I rather liked you taking most of the reins since you never fail to exceed my expectations. And if you are ever to repeat what I am about to say, I will downright deny it. But, my God, Andréa, you have proven once again that I can always rely on you, you are positively heaven-sent.” 

Andy chuckled shyly in surprised delight, then leaned forward in her seat, resting her arms on the desk as she secretively hushed, “Careful what you say around the office, Miranda. Not that I mind you finally praising my efforts, not at all. But it won’t do to have people hear that you actually know how to be grateful, right?” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed, amusement glimmering in her eyes as she glanced down at Andy’s chest. “Stand up,” she ordered. 

Andy blinked. “What?” 

Getting up herself, Miranda said, “I am not in the habit of repeating myself, Andréa.” Then walked around her desk. 

Andy complied and turned to face Miranda who was now standing in front of her. She let out a surprised gasp as Miranda’s hands reached up and started to undo the top buttons of her shirt. 

“Miranda?” Andy breathily squeaked, her heart skipping into overdrive as she felt her body heat up along with the blush that was creeping up from her chest to the tips of her ears. 

Smirking subtly, eyes transfixed on Andy’s chest, Miranda whispered, “You missed a button.” 

“Oh,” Andy rasped as she looked down to watch Miranda’s fingers start to slowly button up her shirt again. Even if her life depended on it, she couldn’t contain the intense shiver running up and down her spine as the tips of Miranda’s fingers brushed up against her breastbone. 

When Miranda reached the final button, both women glanced up, hazel eyes drowning in arctic-turned-ocean ones. The previous comfortable atmosphere was now laden, prickling Andy’s skin with a sizzling charged tension, raising the hairs at the back of Andy’s neck and arms to suspensive attention. The darkly-hued, enigmatic depth in Miranda’s gaze inflamed Andy’s spirit with tormented, yet riveting hunger. After smoothing her hands over Andy’s shoulders to straighten out her shirt, Miranda lowered her hands as she took a step back.  

Andy cleared her throat, but her voice came out still slightly hoarse. “Thanks, must’ve missed it in my haste to get to you-, Runway, I mean. Can’t believe no one pointed that out to me while I was running about.” Chuckling, she said, “Actually, I’m not really that surprised. I must’ve pissed off quite a lot of people by hounding them to get the job done.” Andy’s eyes widened in realization then. “Hey, wait, why didn’t you say anything?” 

Miranda smirked wickedly. “Even though slovenliness is something I would never stand for when it comes to fashion, I cannot deny that the look suits you rather befittingly.” 

Andy growled, then grumbled. “When I said that I liked you praising my efforts, that was not what I meant.” 

Miranda chuckled, her gaiety clearly glowing in her eyes, then her features softened as she asked, “I trust you did not overdo yourself? How are you feeling?” 

“I feel alright, honestly,” Andy said with a reassuring smile. “A lot better than the past couple of days.” 

Miranda nodded, then asked, “Are you hungry?” 

“Positively famished,” Andy answered as she clutched her stomach. 

Miranda smiled as she good-naturedly rolled her eyes. “Why am I not surprised? Let me finish up here.” Moving away to sit behind her desk again, Miranda said with a light-heartedness to her voice, “I will take you out to an early dinner, show you, and only you, how grateful I can truly be.” 

“Oh,” Andy blinked, feeling stunned. “I-, you don’t have to. I mean, don’t you have to go home to the girls?” 

“Cara is taking Caroline out for dinner before her dance practice, and Cassidy is at a friend’s house. Roy will be picking them both up, so they will not be home until later this evening,” Miranda clarified as she finished typing off something on her laptop. Then, she busied herself with clearing up her desk as she said, “And I am rather famished myself since that nitwit ruined my lunch.” 

Feeling ecstatic but also slightly nervous, Andy smiled as she asked, “Alright then, do you need me to call ahead and make a reservation somewhere?” 

Miranda shook her head, stood up with unrivaled grace once more, and rounded her desk. “No, that will not be necessary.” Passing the younger woman, she called out, “Come along now, Andréa.” 

Retrieving Miranda’s coat and bag from the closet in the anteroom, she took a gamble as she held out the coat in a silent gesture. Miranda raised an amused eyebrow, then delighted Andy by turning around and allowing the younger woman to assist in donning her coat. 

When they left the anteroom, Andy made sure to stay her usual two steps behind the older woman as they walked towards the elevator. As if summoned by magic, the elevator doors opened, ensuring Miranda’s exit to go uninterrupted. Once again, following their usual traditions, Andy stayed behind in the hall to wait for the next car. Miranda rolled her eyes, then gestured with her head for Andy to enter the elevator.  

Standing next to Miranda, arms nearly touching, Andy spotted Nigel coming around the corner. Right before the doors closed, his face portrayed his surprise at seeing the two women about to ride the elevator together. 

When they were a couple of floors down, Andy looked down at her clothes, then at Miranda with an unsure look on her face. “Maybe I should’ve made a pit stop at the Closet first. I’m not really dressed to dine at a restaurant, and I-, well,” She rubbed at the back of her neck. “I guess I don’t want to embarrass you?” 

Miranda shook her head. “Nonsense, Andréa. You should know by now that I do not care what people might think about me. Besides, your attire will not matter where we are going.” 

“Oh, alright,” Andy said, still feeling a little apprehensive. “Care to tell me where we’re going then?” 

With a small smile, Miranda said softly, “You will find out soon enough.” 

*** 

The ride to the restaurant had been in comfortable silence. When Andy got out of the town car, she was surprised to see that their destination wasn’t one of Miranda’s usual dining places, but seemed to be a rather ordinary Italian bistro. With a curious, yet pleased look on her face, Andy followed Miranda inside.  

The restaurant was definitely humble due to its small-scale, with only four modest tables on one side of the room, and three booths along the opposite wall. The interior and decorations were rather old-fashioned, which, in combination with the soft jazz music playing, gave the restaurant a charming antique vibe. Andy instantly fell in love with the place, but what she loved the most was the mouth-watering smell hanging in the air. 

A stout little man wearing a chef’s jacket appeared from what Andy presumed to be the kitchen, his senior face lighting up as he spotted the two women.   

“Miranda! Buona sera, mio bella signora. Oh, how good it is to see you again,” he greeted enthusiastically with a thick Italian accent. He approached Miranda with his arms wide open and Andy was surprised to see Miranda stepping, without hesitation and a genuine smile, into his embrace. 

“Dante,” Miranda greeted softly, kissing the man on both his cheeks, eerily similar as they do in all the mafia movies. Then, surprised Andy once more by wreaking havoc to her insides as she spoke in what seemed to be flawless Italian. “È bello vederti anche tu. È passato troppo tempo, non è vero?” 

Dante nodded as he held onto Miranda’s hands. “Sì, too long indeed. How are le tue dolci ragazze?” 

Smiling, Miranda said, “Stanno bene, grazie. They seem to grow up too fast for my liking.” 

“Sì,” Dante’s grin softened. “They always do.” His warm gaze focused on Andy then. “And who is this bella giovane donna you have brought with you?” 

Taking a step back to stand next to Andy, Miranda said as she placed her hand onto the small of Andy’s back. “This is my An-, my friend Andréa.” 

Before Andy could let Miranda’s introduction sink in, she squealed in surprise as Dante grabbed her by her upper arms and pulled her in to kiss her on both cheeks. “Andréa, such a beautiful name, fitting for such a beautiful woman.” 

Andy giggled. “Thank you, it’s nice to meet you. You have a wonderful restaurant, it smells amazing in here.” 

Dante’s smile grew impossibly brighter. “Grazie, amore. But wait until you have tried the food, we have the best pasta in the whole of New York. Wouldn’t you agree, Miranda?” 

Miranda chuckled as she nodded. “Most certainly.” 

“Va bene allora,” Dante said as he gestured them towards the corner booth. “Let me feed you piccola ladies. Onestamente, women these days have no meat on their bones.” 

“I am sure that would change if the food everywhere else was only half as good as yours, Dante,” Miranda kindly said as she sat down. 

“You flatter me, amore.” Dante grinned as he handed both women the menu. “Would you like your usual wine while you choose?” 

Looking at Andy, seemingly a bit worried, Miranda asked softly, “How is your head, Andréa?” 

Andy smiled tenderly at Miranda’s consideration. “I’m fine, honestly. A glass of wine will truly be no damage done, I promise.” 

Miranda gazed at her for a moment longer, then nodded slightly. “Alright then, do you enjoy red wine?” 

Andy grinned. “Love it.” 

Miranda nodded once more, seemingly pleased, then glanced up at Dante again. “Sì, sarebbe adorabile.” 

“Va bene, I shall be with you shortly,” he said grinning, eyes darting back and forth between the two women for a short moment, then disappeared into the back of the bistro. 

“I’m just taking a wild guess here,” Andy said, smirking. “But it seems like you’re rather familiar with this place.” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed as she glanced around the room with a small smile lingering on her face. “I used to come here quite often when I was younger, and I have brought the girls here when they were little on several occasions too.” 

“But not so much anymore now?” Andy asked curiously. 

Miranda shook her head. “No, unfortunately. The girls seem to like to go out at the rather trendier places now that they are a bit older. I suppose such is the influence of only having friends whose parents are from the, well, upper class.” 

Inclining her head to the side, Andy asked, “Why don’t you dine here anymore then? You seem to like it here.” 

Miranda sighed as she sat back in her seat. “Well, I suppose I have not had the opportunity to do so lately, nor the time, really.” 

“How so? You dine out all the time,” Andy queried gently. 

“I do,” Miranda agreed softly, sounding slightly hollow. “However, it is always inevitably connected to my job.” 

“So, why not choose to eat here then?” 

“Because,” Miranda sighed once more. “I do not wish to corrupt the fond memories I have of this place with something work-related.” 

Feeling a bit apprehensive, yet curious Andy asked, “So, you bringing me here, uhm, you don’t see this as, well, as something work-related?” 

Miranda remained quiet for a moment, then a gentle, small smile graced her features as she shook her head. 

“I see.” Andy smiled tenderly as she expressed her heartfelt delight through her steady gaze with the older woman. “Well then, I’m honored that you chose to bring me here, Miranda.” 

Miranda was about to say something but was interrupted by Dante’s arrival holding a bottle of wine. 

Pouring the wine into their glasses, he politely asked, “Have you lovely ladies decided on your dish yet?” 

“Oh,” Andy blinked as she looked down at her still closed menu. “I-” 

“Would you mind if I made a suggestion for you, Andréa?” Miranda asked gently. 

Andy nodded. “Not at all, go right ahead.” 

“Are you allergic to anything?” Miranda asked, which Andy shook her head to. 

Looking back up, Miranda said, “I will have the Spaghetti alle Vongole, Dante, and the Bucatini all'Amatriciana for Andréa.” 

“Excellent choices, amore.” Dante grinned, then disappeared into the kitchen again. 

“So,” Andy drawled as she leaned forward on the table. “Where’d you learn how to speak Italian?” 

Miranda seemed to hesitate for a moment, seemingly feeling a little uneasy. Naturally, Andy noticed Miranda’s sudden discomfort, so, she sat back in her seat, not wanting to make the older woman uncomfortable by prying into Miranda’s personal history. Then, the apprehensive look on Miranda’s features faded away, as if she had made up her mind about something.  

“At one of my very first jobs,” Miranda admitted softly. “The woman that owned the shop was of Italian descent. She was a rather ferocious boss to work for, however, I have learned quite a lot from her.” She then added as an afterthought, “My God, looking back now, that seems like a lifetime ago.” 

Smirking playfully, Andy said, “A ferocious boss, huh? I happen to know someone matching such a description too.” 

Miranda rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “Oh, believe me, Andréa. Compared to Casimira, working for me is rather equivalent to a walk in the park.” 

Andy’s eyes widened. “Seriously? My God, I can’t even begin to imagine what that must’ve been like.” 

With a wicked glint in her eyes, Miranda said, “Let us just say that you struck gold on that front.” 

Chuckling, Andy shook her head, then held out her wine glass. “I’ll drink to that.”  

With another roll of her eyes, Miranda clinked her glass to Andy’s. 

“So, Casimira?” Andy said softly. 

“Hm?” Miranda hummed as she took a sip of her wine, then let out a satisfied sigh. 

Approaching the topic carefully, Andy asked, “Could that be in-, y’know, as in Cassidy?”  

Miranda’s eyes subtly widened, seemingly surprised at Andy’s deduction. Then, with a small smile, she nodded once. 

“How about Caroline? Was she named after someone you knew too?” Andy prompted further. 

Her small smile still lingering, Miranda nodded once more. 

“Are you going to tell me about it?” Andy asked curiously. 

Miranda’s eyes narrowed for a moment, running the knuckle of her index finger over her bottom lip, as if she were contemplating something. She leaned forward then, a glimmer of curiosity in her eyes. “You certainly seem to have quite a lot of questions today, Andréa. I do not think there has ever been a person before you that has dared to ask me so much.” 

Even though Andy had started to feel slightly nervous under Miranda’s observational gaze, Andy shrugged innocently. “I guess I’m just trying to make hay while the sun shines.” 

Inclining her head to the side, Miranda asked, “By rattling off a seemingly never-ending list of questions?” 

“Yeah,” Andy nodded. “Well, more like, by wanting to get to know you more.” 

Miranda’s eyes narrowed slightly again, her voice lightly tinted with disbelief. “Because you find me so interesting?”  

Smiling shyly, Andy shrugged her shoulders as she replied, voice barely above a whisper, “Sure do.” 

Eyes slightly conveying her surprise, Miranda chuckled quietly as she shook her head. “Well then, it is only fair if you offer something about yourself as well, Andréa.” 

With a faint blush tinting her cheeks, Andy grinned. “You may ask me anything, Miranda. I’m like an open book.” 

They silently gazed at one another for a moment, both women seemingly deep in thought as they considered something about each other, then Miranda asked, “Whatever happened to that cook-boy you were living with?” 

Andy choked on her wine, eliciting an amused chuckle from Miranda. “I’m sorry,” Andy rasped, then cleared her throat. “Took me a little by surprise there.” 

Miranda smirked. “I do have a reputation to uphold, Andréa, wouldn’t you agree?” 

“You mean about you being as unpredictable as ever?” Andy queried, to which Miranda nodded. 

Chuckling, Andy said, “I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you, you’ve certainly gone above and beyond in exceeding my expectations today. I think it’s a high probability for Emily to have a seizure if she’d ever see you dining out in a place such as this one.” 

Miranda let out a little snort. “Oh, please, I think Emily would have a seizure for far less than that. Honestly, that girl needs to learn how to take a moment to just sit and breathe for a change.” 

Andy laughed as she shook her head. “God, I’d love to see her reaction if you were to demand such a thing from her. She wouldn’t know what hit her.” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed. “Perhaps I should. I do like to keep my staff on their toes.” 

“Oh, don’t I know it.” Andy grinned, then her smile softened. “But she seems to be doing a lot better these days, probably Serena’s doing.” 

Miranda rose a single questioning eyebrow. “Serena?” 

“Yeah,” Andy nodded as she smiled. “Ever since they got together, that sardonic stick that seemed to be stuck in Emily’s a-” She cleared her throat. “Y’know, hindquarters, well, I mean, let’s just say she’s been a lot more pleasant to work with.” 

“Emily and Serena,” Miranda muttered. “I had no idea.” 

Andy’s eyebrows shot up. “You didn’t? Huh, well, they’ve been rather discreet about it at work. So, I guess it hasn’t been that obvious now that I think about it.” 

Whilst stroking her thumb over the rings Miranda was wearing on that hand, she said, seemingly feigning an air of indifference. “What has been obvious is how Serena seems to be pining after you every chance she gets. I cannot imagine Emily being remotely okay with such behavior.” 

Andy shook her head, slightly startled. “Oh, no. Emily is very much aware about that. That’s just Serena for you. She likes to flirt, however, she has only honest and good intentions when she does it.” 

Tilting her head to the side, Miranda asked, voice tinged with incredulity. “How so?” 

Andy sat back in her seat as she explained, “Well, her intentions are merely friendly. She just wants to make girls feel better about themselves. She’d said so herself one time when I first started working at Runway, y’know, after my make-over. I’d asked her why she kept hitting on me, that’s when she explained that she wanted to help me to feel more confident in my appearance. She’s truly a great and loyal friend to have, and I have no doubt whatsoever that her devotion to Emily is as unwavering as can be. They’re perfect for each other. Sort of like yin and yang, if you ask me.” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed softly. “So, you are not bothered by her, well, teasing displays then?” 

Andy shook her head. “No, not at all. I’d even say they sort of did the trick. Our friendship is entirely platonic, however, I can’t deny that Serena’s comments did help me in a way.” 

“Help you how?” Miranda asked, her face still giving nothing away as to what she was thinking. 

Tucking a stray lock of her hair back behind her ear, Andy said, “I guess, well, there’s no denying that Serena’s a beautiful and confident woman, so, to be on the receiving end of such attention, I suppose it did help me to feel better about myself while talking to her.” 

Fiddling with her hands, Andy continued. “Especially since, y’know, at Runway, I’m constantly surrounded by all these gorgeous, perfect-looking women, and most of them aren’t really, uhm, let’s just say they aren’t very-, approving, of women that look like me. So, it had been a bit of a struggle, those first months, for, well, my self-esteem. Serena sort of helped me through that.” 

Chuckling, Andy said, “So did Nigel, in a way, by helping me dress the part. He once said to me, ‘it isn’t always the clothes that make women more beautiful, it’s the woman wearing the clothes that make them perfect.” 

After taking another sip from her wine, Andy smiled. “Then, one day, as I got off the elevator and walked down the halls of Runway, it suddenly hit me. I realized I no longer cared about how some of the clackers were looking down at me. Because I was feeling good about myself. I loved the clothes I was wearing, but I felt great, strong even, in them, like they were made for me. And the fact that I was finally doing a pretty decent job, only served to boost my morale and integrity even more.” 

Leaning forward in her seat, arms resting on the table, Andy looked deeply into Miranda’s attentive eyes. “Therefore, I have a lot to be grateful for since I met you. I’ve grown so much as a person, I’ve learned so much as well, and you-,” Smiling shyly, Andy admitted, “This past year, even with our ups and downs, you’ve played such a fundamental role, such an integral part in my life, Miranda, and I just, well, you’ve got my eternal gratitude for that.” 

Sitting back in her seat, Andy picked up her wine glass, staring into the burgundy liquid, she chuckled lightly before adding softly, “Sorry, I’m rambling, but I guess, I just wanted you to know that.” 

After a silent moment, Andy looked up at Miranda again, an enamored warmth swirling in her belly, traveling up, engulfing her chest by the endearing look on Miranda’s face. 

After humming lightly, Miranda reached forward and gently laid her hand on top of Andy’s. “I am glad that you have come to see your worth, Andréa.” 

After a short pause, Miranda added softly, “As for me, it has been a wonderful thing to watch you grow into the beautiful woman you are today.” 

Blushing, Andy glanced down at their hands, feeling Miranda’s warmth travel up her arm, then slowly closed hers, gently holding onto Miranda’s fingers. When Andy looked up again, she felt utterly bewitched as her gaze locked with Miranda’s once more. 

Smiling affectionately, arctic eyes glimmering with ardor, Miranda admitted, “And you have no idea how thrilling it is to think about the prospect of your future career, Andréa. I have no doubt that you will only continue to flourish and thrive in this part of your life. If only one year has changed you so much for the better, then I cannot wait to see the woman you have become in several years from now.” 

Lightly squeezing Andy’s hand, Miranda said quietly, voice barely above a whisper, causing Andy to lean in, “You had once explained to me, rather eloquently, all the reasons why you admire me, you thought of me as a person to behold-” 

“Think,” Andy interjected gently. “I will always think that about you, Miranda.” 

With a faint blush coloring her cheeks, Miranda cleared her throat. “Well, be that as it may, I am, beyond any doubt certain that somewhere along the way that you will venture upon, the world will come to view you as such as well, Andréa.” 

Andy couldn’t have been more relieved that she was sitting down, for she was sure that the tremble running through her body would’ve weakened her knees into falling forward like a fool. Drowning in Miranda’s eyes and losing herself in her touch, Andy failed to notice Dante approaching them with their dishes. Miranda retracted her hand as Dante reached their table, and Andy instantly missed and longed for her touch again. 

“Here you go, ladies,” Dante said enthusiastically as he placed their plates in front of them. “I have put an extra sprinkle of l'ingrediente dell'amore on top of it. Buon appetito.” 

“Grazie, Dante,” Miranda said softly, eyes never leaving Andy’s. 

Feeling as if her emotions were coming undone by Miranda’s drowning gaze, Andy averted her eyes and smiled up at Dante. “Thank you, it looks and smells wonderful.” 

With a bright smile and a wink, Dante left the two women to themselves once more. After taking her first bite, Andy moaned loudly, then groaned. “My God, Miranda. This is amazing.” 

Miranda blinked subtly, then smirked as she jested, “You seem surprised? I am rather well-known for my sense of taste, after all.” 

Andy laughed. “You sure are. God, I wish I could cook like this.” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed after taking a sip of her wine. “Speaking of cooks, you still haven’t answered my question, Andréa.” 

“Oh, you mean Nate?” Andy sighed. “There isn’t much to tell really. We had a falling out before Paris, and when I got back, he was gone. He moved to Boston for a job, took most of our stu-, things with him as he went. Haven’t heard from him since.” 

After a quiet moment, Miranda asked, voice barely above a whisper. “Do you still want to?” At Andy’s questioning look, Miranda elaborated. “Hear from him again, I mean.” 

Andy restrained the impulse to raise her eyebrows in questioning wonder, instead, she shook her head. “No, I have no interest in hearing, or seeing him again. That’s all in my past now.” 

After eating in silence for a moment, Miranda asked, sounding slightly apprehensive, “What was your altercation about?” 

Andy chewed her food slowly, feeling a bit unsure about answering that question. 

“It is just-,” Miranda clarified. “You seemed to be happy in your relationship with him, then, out of the blue, you stopped mentioning him around the office.” 

Andy inclined her head to the side, no longer able to hide her surprise at Miranda’s inquiries. “You noticed that?”  

Miranda raised an eyebrow. 

“Right,” Andy mumbled. “You notice everything at work.” Smirking, she added, “Well, except for Emily and Serena being a thing.” 

Miranda rolled her eyes. “As you said, they seemed to be handling their relationship rather discreetly.” Then, she narrowed her eyes slightly. “Are you trying to avoid the question again, Andréa?” 

Chuckling, Andy shook her head. “Yup, you do notice everything.” 

Miranda intently looked at her for a moment before she gently relented. “You do not have to answer that if you do not want to.” 

Looking down into her wine glass, Andy said, “No, it’s okay. It’s just been a while since I thought about it.” After taking a sip, she explained, “We’ve just been growing apart, ever since I started working for Runway. He didn’t like the job, and he didn’t like the fact that I was changing because of it, said he didn’t like the person I’d turned into beneath all those clothes and make-up.” 

Andy shrugged. “So, it’s safe to say that he wasn’t very supportive of my career as he continued to complain about me not having any time for him. In the end, it came down to him accusing me of no longer being able to identify the priorities that mattered because of whose calls I-” She stopped herself abruptly, eyes slightly widening. 

Before Andy had a chance to divert from that last statement, Miranda questioned, “Whose calls you, what?” 

Fiddling with her napkin, Andy mumbled, “Nothing, it doesn’t matter now anyway.” 

Miranda narrowed her eyes as she drawled, “Andréa. What did cook-boy accuse you of?” 

Andy sighed as she looked down at the table surface, then admitted in a whisper, “The calls I always take, that’s the relationship I’m in.” 

“And whose calls did you always take?” Miranda asked softly. 

Andy looked up from underneath her eyelashes and gazed deeply, yet unsure into Miranda’s eyes. 

After a short moment, Miranda’s eyes widened as she registered what Andy was silently conveying. “Oh,” Miranda breathed, then sat back in her seat. “I-, I’m, the reason you-, why you-” 

Andy frowned as she sat up straight, then said sternly, “No, Miranda.” She shook her head. “Don’t you even think that. You’re not the reason we broke up.”  

Placing her arms on the table, Andy leaned forward as she asserted, “Ending things with Nate was the right thing for me. It would’ve ended sooner or later, since I didn’t want to, I couldn’t even if I tried, change back into the naïve girl I was before I’d met you.” 

Andy reached out, gently holding on to Miranda’s forearm. Lowering her voice, Andy professed, “Apart from leaving you in Paris, there isn’t a single thing I regret since I’ve come to know you. I wouldn’t change a damn thing about the person I am now. I’m proud of who I’ve become because of you. And don’t you even dare to question, or ever forget that, Miranda.” 

A heavy and somewhat awkward silence enveloped them as they continued to eat their food, albeit in a very slow fashion. Andy’s nerves were wreaking havoc to her insides, berating herself for everything she admitted about herself to Miranda, thinking that she undoubtedly made the older woman uncomfortable with everything that she revealed about her thoughts and feelings. 

After Andy finished her dish, she’d inwardly talked herself down so much that she felt too unsettled to gaze back up again as she continued to avoid looking into Miranda’s eyes. 

After another excruciating moment, Miranda’s barely audible voice broke the silence between them.  

“Coralie.” 

Due to Andy’s confusion, she looked up at Miranda with a questioning look on her face. “What?” 

“You had asked me,” Miranda began softly. “If I had named Caroline after someone I knew too, as I did with Cassidy.” 

“Oh,” Andy breathed, feeling startled by the sudden change in direction after their conversation. “Yeah, I did.” 

“She was named after Coralie,” Miranda admitted gently, then looked down into her nearly empty wine glass. “After my grandmother.” 

“Oh,” Andy breathed once more, a tender smile creeping up her face. “That’s beautiful. She must’ve been very dear to you.” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed, then finished her wine. “She was.” 

After another quiet moment, with Andy still feeling too nervous to ask any more questions, Miranda spoke up once more as she fiddled with her necklace. “They are still very dear to me, my grandmother and Casimira. I would not be here, be the person I am today, if they had played no part in raising me.” After a short pause, she added, “I looked up to them when I was still very young.” 

Lowering her hand that had been fiddling with her necklace, Miranda leaned slightly forward, gazing up to look into Andy’s attentive, yet gentle eyes, then stated softly, “Caroline and Cassidy look up to you.” 

Andy smiled at that, she opened her mouth to say something, but closed it again as Miranda held up a finger, indicating that she wasn’t done talking yet. “You said tonight, that you are grateful for having met me.” 

Andy nodded, expressing her sincerity at that statement through her eyes. 

“Well,” Miranda whispered, a small smile gracing her features as she admitted, “I am grateful they have come to know you.” After a short pause, she added, “And I am grateful for having met you as well.” 

“Thank you,” Andy breathed. “That means a great deal to me.” 

Smiling at each other, Andy reveled in the soothing warmth and pleasant tingles within their little bubble. As she watched Miranda glance down at her wristwatch, with reluctance, yet understanding, Andy realized that their intimate evening together was coming to a close. 

“The twins will be home soon?” Andy asked. 

Miranda nodded, then looked up, seemingly trying to read through hazel eyes as to what Andy was thinking. 

Smiling in understanding, Andy said, “Well, you mustn't keep them waiting. I’m sure they can’t wait to tell you all about the day they’ve had, and I’m sure they’d be delighted in hearing about yours as well.” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed. “I am sure that will change soon enough. Once they are teenagers, they probably cannot wait to lock themselves into their rooms for the remainder of the evening.” 

Andy chuckled as she shook her head. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that. You’re lovely company to have, Miranda. I had a wonderful time this evening. Thank you for this.” Rubbing at the back of her neck, Andy mumbled shyly, “I-ah, I hope that we can, y’know, do this again sometime? Whenever you’ve got the time to do so, of course.” 

Miranda smiled tenderly. “I had a rather pleasant evening myself, Andréa. It has been a refreshing change from the usual working dinner. I would not mind obliging to your request if you were to ask me.” 

“Really?” Andy nearly squeaked in disbelief, then composed herself as she cleared her throat. “Well, that’s-, great, I mean, lovely, I-, I’d like that.” 

Miranda chuckled lightly. “Yes, so you have said.” 

*** 

They stood waiting outside the restaurant after Miranda had paid and they’d said their goodbyes to Dante. When the town car arrived at the curb, Andy stepped forward to open the door for Miranda. 

“Say goodnight to the twins for me,” Andy said gently. 

Miranda inclined her head to the side. “Are you not getting it? It is no problem to drop you off at your apartment, Andréa.” 

Andy shook her head. “Thank you for the offer, but I feel like walking for a bit. My apartment’s close by, actually.” 

“Are you sure?” Miranda asked as she attentively observed Andy’s face. 

Smiling, Andy took a step closer. Miranda’s eyes subtly widened at their sudden close proximity, but didn’t seem to mind it as she continued to gaze into Andy’s eyes. 

With her heart pounding vehemently inside her chest, tentatively, Andy leaned forward, her lips hovering in the air for a short moment, barely an inch away from Miranda’s skin.  

After a slight intake of breath, Miranda made no move to pull away. Andy closed the final distance, delivering a lingering kiss to Miranda’s surprisingly warm, and predictably soft cheek. 

Moving to Miranda’s ear, Andy whispered, “Goodnight, Miranda. I’ll hear you soon.” 

As Andy moved back, she delighted in the endearing flush coloring Miranda’s cheekbones, and the vibrancy glimmering in her artic-turned-ocean blues. 

Miranda’s hand came up, its warmth a desirable cherishment, traveling from where it laid on Andy’s cheek, all the way to every single nerve ending. Her thumb stroking a gentle caress, Miranda whispered back, “And I, you.” 

Their eyes held one another’s for an expressive and momentous moment longer, before Miranda gracefully slipped into the back of the car, disappearing from Andy’s vision as she softly closed the door for her.  

Andy watched until the town car moved around the corner before she began her track to her apartment. Feeling as if the stars, the planets, and every single cosmic power in the universe had aligned themselves, carrying her beyond the top of the world, beyond cloud nine and the seventh heaven, all the way over and beyond the moon. 

Chapter Text

Thursday  

It’s as blissful as the daily delivery,  
that comes with the arrival of dawn,  
when the nightingale awakes with its love to sing,  
performing its sweetly euphonic melodies,  
raising the mockingbird from its slumber,  
who spreads its wings,  
warms its mellifluous voice,  
and together they share their passionate love,  
their talent for musicality,  
as they compose a soulful ballad,  
singing the sky awake with their silvery symphony. 

Such was the serenely harmonious sensation behind the blissful, instantaneous grin on Andy’s features as she awoke to the touch of the morning sun. Miranda’s dulcet tones from the evening before, still resounding within her mind, as clear as daylight. 

Yesterday’s interplay had been yet another wonderful development, another bridge crossed in Andy’s journey to reach her destination that was Miranda’s heart. As she was lying in bed, gazing up at the ceiling with a love-sick grin, Andy replayed the previous day’s conversations within her mind, as well as reminiscing about their not-so-distant past. She couldn’t quite believe the progress they’ve made as she looked back on it now, how closed off, inaccessible, and indifferent Miranda had been merely a couple of weeks ago. 

Before the first time Andy had stayed over at the townhouse, as well as some time after, it had felt as if both women had been constantly walking on eggshells, but nonetheless, they’d tried to get used to the curious changes transpiring between them, and adapted to the shift of their employer-employee dynamic to a more..., well, Andy couldn’t quite think of it as an intimate one yet, not entirely, but their relation certainly felt a lot more personal. Granted, Miranda was still her boss, but they’d crossed so many boundaries that Andy saw nothing but blurred lines as she considered their work association. 

Over the past couple of weeks, they had been treading forward mindfully as they interacted with one another. Andy couldn’t even begin to comprehend what Miranda’s objective was in all of this, but Andy’s intention had always been crystal clear as she tried to learn how to navigate their unexpected growing affinity. And their progress had now led to them seemingly starting to settle into a more comfortable..., it was almost like a sort of friendship, however, it certainly didn’t feel like a friendship to Andy. 

How could it, when she felt such a myriad of intense feelings for Miranda. Andy knew what she wanted..., no, if she was being honest with herself, Andy needed so much more from Miranda. But she understood that this was not something one could foolishly rush into. There was a seemingly infinite number of consequential elements she needed to consider, and there was still so much ground between them that was left uncovered. But there was undoubtedly no denying the fact that Andy wanted it all. 

So, the million-dollar question was, what did Miranda want from all of this? Whilst working for her, Andy had witnessed Miranda interact with her so-called friends numerous times at gatherings, events, shows, and so forth. However, Andy was simply unable to compare what Miranda and she had with any of the people she’d met, and Andy had come to realize that it was because of a fairly simple reason. 

When other people interacted with Miranda, Andy knew that they were talking to a façade, meticulously put together to survive and thrive in the corporate and social industry that was Miranda Priestly’s working life. But when Andy was alone with her, or with the twins, the woman Andy was faced with then, that was the real Miranda. 

She desperately wanted to know what it was that made Miranda reveal her true self to Andy. As Andy pondered the possibility that Miranda might only view her as simply a trustworthy friend, well, that description simply didn’t click. She couldn’t compare Miranda’s reciprocity to any of her current friendships, or even the ones she has had in the past. Their foundation felt too changeable, too indecisive, to regard their relationship simply as friendly. There were just too many contradictions. 

Miranda’s presence around Andy soothed her, feeling serenely at peace as they drifted on a waveless and breezeless ocean of tranquility, joyous and content to simply be together in the moment, without a single care in the world. However, at the same time, it was as if they were caught in a tempestuous storm of erratically uncontrolled sensitivities, swallowing them whole in an unrivaled state of chaos of crashing waves of thoughts and feelings. 

But the thought that Andy wasn’t traveling across unpredictable waters alone, might as well just have been wishful thinking on her part. Who’s to say that Miranda was right there with her as Andy’s companion in their exploration, since all Andy had on her were merely speculations, ambiguous possibilities, foolishly created by her desirous musings. The simple truth of the matter was, that there was absolutely no way for Andy to be certain as to what Miranda might think of, or feel for her. Miranda was, for all intents and purposes, a difficult woman to understand, after all. 

Therefore, even though their spirits seemed to be more relaxed and accepting of the fact that they’ve breached the boundaries of their working relationship, Andy still felt on edge most of the time. The ever-present uncertainty that was constantly lingering between them was now tainted with another burden. It was becoming increasingly harder for Andy to keep hiding her true feelings in Miranda’s presence. All Andy really wanted to do was to just take Miranda’s face between her hands, pull the woman flush against her body, and kiss her senseless. There was nothing in this world, or in life, that Andy desired more. And she would totally go for it, if she only knew that there was a chance that Miranda would reciprocate and not push her away, scorn her for being an ignorant, purblind fool, and then exile Andy from her life, or in the very least, go back to keeping the younger woman at an arm’s length. 

Nevertheless, it seemed as if the drawbridge to Miranda’s fortress had been lowered, albeit occasionally, making way for Andy to lose herself even more to the woman behind the façade, leaving her hopelessly overjoyed, yet recklessly hopeful. 

The previous weeks had undeniably been a challenging time for Andy as she’d been questing on unpredictable risky terrain as she poked, pried, and familiarized herself with the chinks in Miranda’s armor, and yet, in spite of that, it was nothing compared to her recent quandary. She wasn’t entirely sure how to venture forward beyond their friendly state of affairs and reveal that she longed for something more. Since Andy was practically paralyzed by her fear of losing Miranda if she ever dared to reveal her heart’s desire to the older woman.  

Because that is what she inevitably needed to do. If Andy truly wanted to banish her skepticism, and find out if she ultimately had even the slightest semblance of a chance with Miranda, she finally had to gather her courage to leave this state of limbo and expose her emotions. Which was, of course, easier said than done, since the looming horror that Miranda might never return such feelings was a constant, very real reality within Andy’s mind. All because Andy wasn’t ignorant to the fact that the world was notoriously known for being viciously cruel and beyond a shadow of a doubt, unfair. 

If Andy thought about it too hard, too long, she couldn’t help but feel her fear of rejection and losing Miranda consume her, trapping her in a disconsolate mindset. It was as if the grounds she dwelled on that was the deceptively fabricated sense of safety in her limbo, give away, burned into a cloud of smoke by hellfire, unveiling the abyss underneath that swallowed her whole, into a much darker and despairing plane. Where she was being damned by the merciless celestial universe, to be tormented in a heartbreakingly ruthless purgatory, punished for being blinded by sinful greed and driven by selfish desires. 

And yet, Andy knew that she couldn’t live in fear forever, that she couldn’t continue to dwell in this little safe space they were currently in, because with everything Andy felt bubbling underneath the surface, waiting and wanting to burst free, it wouldn’t be truly living at all. 

But the true peculiarity of it all was that, in a curious twist of fate, Andy acknowledged that even Miranda had been braver than her in regards to revealing glimpses of her exceedingly guarded soul. Miranda had willingly opened herself up as she talked about personal thoughts and vulnerable feelings. Andy knew, that it must’ve taken the older woman beyond a herculean effort to expose such things about herself, something Miranda most likely never did, or at least, hadn’t done for a very long time. 

Upon realizing that Andy was being nothing short of a coward, she knew that something needed to be done, something needed to change within herself. It was time for her to take the reins in their story once more, instead of cowering on the sidelines. She needed to take it upon herself to turn the next page and write the next chapter in her odyssey. Where she would gather her resolve, soldier on, set out to persevere as she embarked to conquer her next hardship while knowing, and accepting, that the biggest risk involved was the possibility of her heart being broken by making herself fatally vulnerable to Miranda. 

As Andy looked at her reflection in the bathroom mirror after her morning shower, thinking that her objective was easier said than done, but nonetheless, she vowed to herself that she would try to do just that. 

*** 

Whilst fiddling with her phone, Andy was trying to get a grip on her anxiety and convince herself to proceed with her plan, which was asking Miranda out on a date tonight. She knew it was rather silly since they’d went out together for dinner only yesterday, however, Andy honestly couldn’t put the urge to do something, anything, about her situation to rest. And Miranda had said that she wouldn’t mind going out with the younger woman again. Andy also knew that Cassidy had her piano lessons this evening, but she didn’t know if Caroline would be home or if she’d made plans with friends or Cara. She most definitely didn’t want to intrude on Caroline’s alone time with her mother and vice versa. But if she wouldn’t be home, that meant that Miranda was spending the first part of her evening alone, that is, if the older woman didn’t have a working dinner to go to. 

Andy released a heavy sigh, thinking she’d get nowhere if she just continued to sit here on her couch and contemplate about all the reasons why this could possibly be a bad idea or foolishly work herself into a snit by running a multitude of scenarios in her head as to how Miranda might reject her. 

So, as she garnered every single bit of courage she could muster, Andy closed her eyes and hit the “send” button on her phone, firing off the already composed text which she spent the last ten minutes deleting, re-typing, or editing. 

A: Hi, how is your day going so far? Hope Claire isn’t giving you too much trouble?  

After several minutes, the phone that was still resting in her hand, buzzed. 

M: Could certainly be better, could also be worse. I am having the imbecile take calls and reply to emails only, I would be a fool myself if I would let her do anything else.  

M: How about your day? How is that pretty little head of yours?  

Andy couldn’t help but smile at Miranda’s considerate inquiries. 

A: Going well, no headache today.  

With a bout of nervous flutters within her stomach, Andy sent of her next message. 

A: So, I was just wondering... Do you have any plans this evening?  

M: I suppose not, the girls will not be home until later in the evening.  

M: Why?  

A: Well, since you took me out to dinner yesterday, I thought it only fair to return the gesture by taking you out tonight.  

M: Yesterday had been in light of me thanking you, Andréa. There is no need to return such a gesture.  

A: Alright, I sort of phrased that wrong. I don’t want to take you out to thank you, I just simply want to have dinner with you.  

A: So, would you oblige to my request, Miranda?  

Andy started to grow nervous as a reply wasn’t immediately forthcoming for several minutes. She tried to calm herself down by reasoning that Miranda was simply busy working. When the anticipated reply finally came, Andy breathed out a sigh of relief, then grinned. 

M: Only if you promise me a decent meal. Unlike you, I am not a barbarian, Andréa.  

A: Thee of little faith. I would  nev'r   wanteth  to disappoint thee.  

M: I think you might have read too much Shakespeare in your life.  

A: What can I say? I am a hopeless romantic, after all.  

Another long moment went by before Miranda replied. 

M: Where are you taking me this evening?  

A: I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. I’ll text Roy the address, and I’ll text you the details later.  

M: I do not appreciate being kept in the dark, Andréa.  

A: Putteth thy faith in me, Miranda Priestly.  

M: Did you really just use my last name so that would rhyme?  

A: You knoweth me so well. For now, I shalt bid thee, Farewell.  

M: Thee art ridiculous.  

*** 

The rooftop garden was definitely the biggest perk of the apartment Andy was living in. The previously empty space had been beautifully transformed over the years by two retired couples residing within the building. Next to cooking dinner, Andy had spent the biggest part of her afternoon cleaning up and maintaining the location. Jardinières and plant-stands with a diverse assortment of flowers were beautifully dispersed around the area. There were a couple of wooden garden benches and tables, handmade by one of the husbands who had spent his entire life working as a carpenter. When the sun will set behind the horizon on this brisk, winter evening, leaving the clear sky void of color except for the moon and stars, everything would still be brightly lit by several lanterns, torches, and candles Andy had situated strategically all over the rooftop. But the true eye-catcher was the wooden garden gazebo that stood proudly in the middle of the space, stunningly illuminated by the fairy lights Andy had hung from the roof’s edges. An intimate dining set stood within the gazebo, the small space was being heated by the electronic heater that was hooked up to the roof. Their dinner, which consisted of chicken and vegetable risotto, and zucchini bread, was being kept warm on tealight bain-maries that stood on a little side-table. 

With every passing minute, Andy’s thrumming heart was crescendoing to a point where it was practically thundering outside of her chest as she paced from one end of the rooftop, to the other, thinking and deriding herself for having been deluded that the plan she’d concocted earlier today had actually been an acceptable one. Now, all she could think was how absurdly ridiculous her idea was. Seriously, she just had to go ahead in wanting to be more original as to where or how she wanted Miranda to experience their dinner together. 

Earlier, Andy thought she didn’t just want to take Miranda out to yet another restaurant, since that was like, a regular occurrence in Miranda’s life, which meant it must not feel anything special to her anymore. The older woman went out to dine in the most luxurious and expensive restaurants all the time, not only in New York, but pretty much around the world. And if Andy was being painfully honest with herself, she simply didn’t have the budget to indulge in Miranda’s decadent lifestyle. 

Unfortunately, that thought had caused a turbulent wave of insecurities to come crashing down into her already restless mind once again, resentfully consuming her previously resolute spirits. It was as if a bucket of ice-cold water had been dumped on her, and with an agonizing stab to her heart, it dawned heavily on Andy as to how inferior and unequal she truly was to Miranda, overwhelming her mind as she questioned everything she’d been thinking and doing these past months, but most of all, what she had planned on doing tonight. With a painfully heavy heart, Andy had come to acknowledge that her foolish idea of a rooftop dinner was nothing compared to how ridiculous she’d been by letting herself be blind-sighted to the fact that she was entirely unworthy to be something, anything of significant meaning to Miranda. 

Andy stopped pacing since the nervous habit was only making her more anxious. She needed to calm herself down before her current train of thought would cause her to come completely undone. So, she walked over to one end of the rooftop, grounding herself by resting heavily on her forearms on the parapet. Closing her eyes and taking deep breaths, she tried to get a handle on the tumultuous uproar that was wreaking havoc to her entire being. 

She was so lost within herself that she hadn’t heard the door on the far side of the rooftop opening and closing, nor the sound of heels slowly approaching behind her over the noise of the city around them. 

Once Andy felt her heart return to its regular pace, she opened her eyes and gazed out in front of her for a long moment, watching as the setting sun painted the heavens in a mesmerizing variety of romantic hues. She then flinched in shock as Miranda’s voice suddenly announced her guest’s arrival, seemingly from right behind her. 

“Seems like we are rather fortunate today,” Miranda said softly. 

Andy turned around so fast, she nearly tumbled sideways by the rapid movement. 

“Miranda,” Andy breathed, not able to register yet what Miranda had said as her senses were suddenly overwhelmed by the older woman’s presence. 

Miranda was regarding her intently in contemplative silence, a thoughtful look of infinite depth in her eyes, her gaze piercing into shadowy, yet diffident hazel ones. A full minute passed, or perhaps, it must’ve only felt that way, it might’ve only been a couple of seconds, because time seems to run differently under Miranda’s watchful gaze. 

Andy blinked out of the spell as she acknowledged what Miranda had said. Tilting her head slightly to the side in confusion, Andy asked, “What do you mean?” 

Miranda observed her for a short moment longer, then stepped forward to stand beside Andy, arctic eyes now transfixed on the slowly but surely, darkening skyline. 

“It is quite a beautiful sunset tonight.” Miranda paused for a moment as she stole a sideways glance to see that Andy still hadn’t taken her eyes off her, then looked out at the heavens again before she continued. “I seem to recall you once telling me that the enchanting beauty of the setting sun is a rather unpredictable and fleeting concept, since it can be quite unreliable in its nature.” 

“I-, yes, I did,” Andy whispered in disbelief, surprised that Miranda remembered the exact same words she had used on that momentous car ride together, seemingly such a long time ago now. 

Miranda smiled tenderly then, still watching the sunset. However, Andy noticed that her gaze seemed slightly glazed over, as if she were reminiscing more than seeing what was truly in front of her. “Well, seems like nature’s treacherous hand is working in our favor tonight, wouldn’t you say?” 

Andy nodded slowly, feeling enraptured once more by the stunning vision of the silver-haired woman standing beside her. Suddenly, she was thoroughly dumbfounded and awe-struck that Miranda was here with her, so close to her, not just in her proximity, but in her life. That this powerful, brilliant, and beautiful woman didn’t mind having Andy as her company, while Miranda could be anywhere else, with anyone else if she wanted to. But for some unfathomable reason, she’d chosen to spend her evening with Andy. Miranda had chosen to trust Andy, to let the younger woman into her exceedingly guarded life, but most of all, she was making a genuine effort in their, admittedly unusual, relationship. 

Frowning slightly, Andy averted her eyes, downcast on the floor. Once again, a swirling storm started to ravage Andy’s mind as she only now seemed to earnestly grasp and comprehend that Miranda seemed to truly want to explore and develop their mystifying affinity, but she couldn’t for the life of her figure out what Miranda saw in her. 

Miranda observed Andy for several moments again before she asked, “Is everything alright, Andréa?” 

“Hm,” Andy hummed hollowly, looking out at the skyline once more. “Yeah, of course, why wouldn’t it be?” 

Another silent moment passed between them, then Miranda said softly, voice slightly tinted with concern, yet filled with warmth. “Your eyes give you away, dear. You have the most expressive eyes. Right now, they are telling me that something is bothering you.” 

Andy blushed as she nibbled on her bottom lip, torn between feeling charmed and troubled at Miranda’s comment. She wanted to say that she’s fine, that everything is alright, because she didn’t want to worry Miranda. She wanted to lighten the somber mood she’s caused, because Miranda didn’t deserve this silent treatment. But then she realized, that Miranda certainly didn’t deserve being lied to either, even if it was a little white lie. 

This past week, Miranda had allowed herself to be so accessible to Andy, had deliberately lowered her walls, and that’s exactly what Andy had wished for to happen all along. Now, in an ironic twist of fate, it was Andy that was closing herself off. Just like her, Miranda must’ve felt at least a dozen types of uncertainties as they endeavored into their connection, and yet, Miranda hadn’t let that get in her way when she interacted with Andy. No, it seemed as if Miranda had overcome whatever doubts she must’ve had. Andy absolutely despised her insecurities for not allowing her to feel utterly delighted by that revelation. 

However, even if the mere thought of being honest with her feelings scared Andy to death, the very least that she could do for Miranda, to show her that she truly appreciated Miranda’s efforts, was to return the sentiment. Andy also acknowledged that she shouldn’t just be doing this for Miranda alone. No, Andy needed to do this for herself as well, if not more. She wasn’t the type of person that backed down and gave in to her struggles, she defeated and overcame them. They might have never been this frightening before, but she had no choice but to face her demons if she wanted to stay true to her herself as she continued to grow as a person, into someone that, one day, might actually be worthy of Miranda Priestly. 

Opening up about one’s feelings and thus making oneself vulnerable was certainly neither an easy nor welcome task for anyone, but undeniably a necessity in order to create and strengthen a more profound and intimate bond with someone. Andy acknowledged that she couldn’t help it, she couldn’t help but be selfish, because even if she was, at this time of her life, unworthy of having Miranda in her life, she couldn’t deny that she greedily wanted such a meaningful connection with her. 

Miranda had become like oxygen to Andy, the thought of being deprived of the older woman, of no longer hearing her voice or have another chance to hear her laugh, no longer seeing her smile or even scowl, no longer being able to gaze into her arctic blues, be it in an indifferent look or one filled with mirth, and never having another opportunity to touch, however fleeting it might be, if Andy were to lose all of that, it would undeniably be like she would lose her heart, lose herself. 

Andy couldn’t let that happen, and the only way to prevent such an outcome from happening, was to, in the very least, make the same kind, no, more of an effort in their relationship as Miranda had done. 

It was time for Andy to stop dwelling in her limbo, time for her to start living on hope once more, and time for her to reach for the stars. 

“Andréa,” Miranda’s soft voice broke through Andy’s ruminations. 

Andy shook her head slightly before her eyes locked with Miranda’s worried gaze. “Yes?” She asked. 

Miranda seemed to contemplate something for a moment before she said, “Do you remember what you said to me over the phone a couple of days ago? When you said that I should not be so hard on myself when it comes to me worrying about disappointing my children?” 

Andy frowned slightly as she tried to recall what she’d said then, but she’d rambled on so much during that conversation, so she wasn’t entirely sure which part Miranda meant exactly. Fortunately, Miranda elaborated further. 

“You said,” Miranda began as she gazed deeply, meaningfully into Andy’s eyes. “’Do not be so hard on yourself when you come across a stumbling block, because it is only a stepping stone.’” 

“Oh,” Andy breathed, eyes slightly widening in surprise due to the fact that Miranda quoted something she had said once again this evening. Smiling shyly, Andy nodded. “Yeah, of course, I remember.” 

“Well then,” Miranda’s affectionate smile took Andy’s breath away. “Whatever it is that seems to be weighing so heavily on your mind, just know that I have every bit of faith in you that you will figure it out, Andréa.” After a short pause, Miranda added with a playful smirk, “After all, you can do anything, right?” 

For the first time that evening, a genuine, heartfelt smile blossomed on Andy’s face. 

“As long as you believe that, believe in me, then I suppose that there’s nothing too great for me to overcome,” Andy said softly, yet reverently. 

Miranda’s affectionate smile turned impossibly softer as she shook her head. “Oh, Andréa. Never doubt that I do, however, you need to believe that for yourself, that is what truly matters.” 

Andy nodded shyly, profusely blushing, nearly swooning due to the tender look Miranda was gracing her with. “Yeah, I know, and I do, really. It’s just-, well, it means a lot, y’know, coming from you.” 

Miranda rolled her eyes good-naturedly as she smirked. “Honestly, Andréa. How is it that you think so highly of me?” 

Andy chuckled lightly, her blush still very much present on her cheeks. “Do you need me to give you another speech about how much I admire you again, how I think that about you and so much more? Because, y’know.” Rubbing at the back of her neck, Andy said softly, “I wouldn’t mind doing so, if-, that’s something you-, well, if you can stand to hear me rambling on about what I fe-” She cleared her throat abruptly. “What I think of you for the entirety of the evening.” 

Silence fell upon them once again, unguarded, yet enigmatic gazes transfixed, captivating one another, drawing each other in, as if their depths were daring the other to dauntlessly venture forward, and discover, explore what was hidden within, waiting, wanting to be uncovered, to be brought to light, released from darkness, and to be found. 

The growling of a stomach pulled the women from their enchantment, embarrassing Andy and eliciting an amused, velvety laugh from Miranda, the sound wrapping around the younger woman like silk. 

Chuckling, Miranda said, “Perhaps we should feed you first. I highly doubt your articulate abilities would be as eloquent as I know you to be from time to time, if you are on the brink of starvation.” 

“Sorry,” Andy mumbled sheepishly. “I’ve been a bit busy this afternoon, haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed, then turned sideways. “I can see that.” 

Andy followed Miranda’s gaze, then nervously observed the older woman as she took in their surroundings. 

Growing more anxious with every passing second, Andy asked timidly, “I-, I hope-, is this okay?” 

Miranda turned to look at Andy again, smiling softly, head tilting slightly to the side, she asked, “Why wouldn’t it be?” 

Andy’s somber insecurities clawed at the back of her mind again as she said, “Well, this isn’t exactly a five-star restaurant now, is it?” She shook her head slightly. “I’m sorry, I realized belatedly how ridiculous this is. I guess I just thought-” Andy stopped abruptly, then let out a heavy sigh. “Honestly, I didn’t know what I was thinking. I just wanted, y’know, to do something different, I suppose. I see now how much of a fool I am.” 

“Andréa,” Miranda said, barely above a whisper. An electrifying shiver suddenly ran up Andy’s arm as Miranda reached out to gently hold her hand. “You are anything but a fool. I must admit, I had absolutely no idea what to expect, since you somehow managed to convince Roy not to tell me where we were headed, and the text with the supposed details you had sent me was sorely lacking information.” She chuckled in amusement then. “Leave it to you to send the vaguest of texts, telling me to ‘just ascend the stairs until you can no longer go up’. Then, when I saw the building, I was nearly convinced that you were a serial killer all along, and that I was about to die in this godforsaken place.” 

Andy couldn’t help but chuckle at that as well. Smiling tenderly, Miranda continued. “However, Andréa. This place is absolutely beautiful and I am pleasantly surprised that you decided to bring me here. I would choose a setting such as this one, over a ritzy restaurant any time.” She paused for a moment. “Especially when I get to enjoy it with company such as yours, Andréa.” 

Andy blinked, struggling for a moment to believe what Miranda just said. Then, she realized that Miranda always spoke the truth, she never sugarcoated anything. 

Making light of herself and of her needless disbelief, Andy returned Miranda’s earlier inquiry. “Honestly, Miranda. How is it that you think so highly of me?” 

Miranda smirked, eyes glimmering with amusement. “If you serve me something acceptable for dinner, then perhaps I might enlighten you a little about what I think of you.” 

“What?” Andy grinned, covertly intrigued. “Don’t tell me you might struggle with your eloquence if you’re hungry too?” 

Chuckling, Miranda shook her head. “Never. Unlike you, I am most definitely not a babbling mess, Andréa. That is a characteristic trait only you seem to possess to such an exceptional extent.” 

Andy rolled her eyes but she was smiling nonetheless. 

*** 

Andy’s earlier grim mood had all but dissipated since their dinner was going so remarkably well, much to Andy’s delight, and seemingly to Miranda’s as well. Light-hearted conversation flowed freely and effortlessly, as well as an almost excessive amount of sarcastic, yet jesting banter. 

Andy knew the inevitable moment for Miranda to leave was closing in, so she’d be home on time before the twins. However, Andy hadn’t forgotten about her purposeful intent that was the whole reason for asking Miranda out in the first place. 

Throughout their dinner, Andy was trying to figure out how she could broach the subject and gracefully articulate what she thought about the older woman and what she could say or reveal about her feelings without blatantly throwing it out there that she was madly in love with Miranda. She wanted to warm Miranda up to the thought of Andy liking her in a romantic sense, but she didn’t want to scare her off by being a careless and reckless mess about it. 

Unfortunately, Andy realized nervously that even if she had all the time in the world, she would never find the right words to say what she wanted to express. All she could really do was to tap into her bravery and just endeavor throughout her quest, to battle through, or rather, go with the flow, and hope for the best, or at the very least, hope for an outcome that wouldn’t leave her entirely broken-hearted. 

Andy took a deep, fortifying breath, held a steady and determined gaze with arctic blues glimmering with mirth, and breathed, “Miranda.” 

“Hm?” Miranda hummed as she set down her glass of wine, curiosity now twinkling in her eyes. 

It was as if a pair of jumper cables were attached to Andy’s heart, as it suddenly kick-started into a nearly impossible pace. “I-, uhm, I have to-” She cleared her throat, trying to get rid of the shakiness it held. “I need to tell you something.” 

Miranda seemed to acknowledge the sudden seriousness in Andy’s demeanor, as her soft features turned fixedly attentive, then nodded for Andy to proceed. “Alright.” 

Andy inhaled another steadying breath, resisting the urge to fiddle with her hands. “These-, these past couple of weeks, well, months really, they’ve meant a great deal to me.” After a short pause, she continued. “You-, you’ve come to mean a great deal to me-” 

Andy didn’t know if she should feel relieved or frustrated that she was being cut off by the ringing of a phone. 

“Hold that thought,” Miranda said, seemingly irritated as she retrieved her phone from her purse. Her eyes slightly widened as she glanced at the screen. “I apologize, Andréa, but I have to take this.” 

Andy nodded in understanding. “Of course.” 

Miranda rose gracefully from her chair as she answered her phone. “Good evening, Arthur. I have been waiting for you to call me...” 

Miranda’s voice trailed off, out of reach of Andy’s hearing as Miranda walked away from her towards the far side of the rooftop. Andy was a bit surprised as to how warmly Miranda greeted the person on the other end of the line. She had never before heard Miranda answer her phone seemingly so, what? Happy? No. Content? Maybe, not entirely. Appeased? Perhaps, yes. 

Andy tried to ignore the suddenly constricted gnawing she felt in the pit of her stomach. She knew she was overthinking something that was probably of insignificant meaning due to the insecurities she’d been overwhelmed with today. It was most likely just a business call. However, Andy worked for Miranda, she knew every single name Miranda came in contact with if it was for something work-related, even numerous private acquaintances such as her lawyer, hairdresser, personal trainer, aesthetician, and so forth. So, Andy was fairly certain that the was no one in Miranda’s network that she had been in contact with that went by the name of Arthur. 

Then, as Andy felt her heart suddenly drop like an anvil to the bottom of her stomach, she remembered that she had heard that name before. Andy shook her head at herself, feeling ridiculous for being so paranoid, because what were the odds that the Arthur Miranda was currently speaking to, was the same man that had dared to touch Miranda that night of the benefit at the Plaza Hotel all those weeks ago. 

The night when Andy had discovered the shocking sensation of being blinded by jealous rage, a feeling she had never encountered before, and as she continued to inconspicuously observe Miranda pacing back and forth as she spoke silently on the phone, that feeling of furious rage reared its ugly head again. 

The seconds ticked by, seconds turning into minutes, minutes into a seemingly torturous eternity. Finally, with Andy nearly on the verge of working herself into another snit of insecurity, she watched as Miranda walked back over to her, a distant look on her face until she locked her eyes with Andy’s once more. 

“I am sorry that took so long,” Miranda said, making no move to sit back down again. 

Feeling a bit out of sorts, Andy tried to hide her irrational concern behind a smile. “It’s alright, Miranda.” 

With an apologetic look, Miranda said, “I am afraid I have to go, Andréa. I seem to have lost track of time. The twins will be home soon.” 

“Oh,” Andy breathed, not letting her smile falter even if she felt a bit disappointed, then stood up. “Of course, I’ll walk you downstairs, then.” 

Miranda shook her head as she smiled softly. “That is quite alright, Andréa. I know the way.” 

“I-” Andy began to object that it was no trouble for her to escort her down, but Miranda’s warm hand that was suddenly grasping hers, stopped any more words from forming in her mouth. 

Gently squeezing Andy’s hand, Miranda said softly, “I will see you tomorrow at the townhouse, right?” 

Andy nodded. “You will.” Tightening her hold on Miranda’s hand, Andy asked shyly, “Perhaps, tomorrow, when the girls are off to their father’s, we could-, y’know, continue, uhm, where we left off?” 

Smiling tenderly, Miranda took a step closer. “If you were about to tell me all the reasons why you think so highly of me, then I look forward to listening to the way you wield your words, Andréa.” 

“Blabber, you mean?” Andy chuckled lightly as Miranda smirked. “Well, I can’t promise that I’ll be any semblance of eloquence tomorrow, since that just sort of happens in the moment, most of the time I don’t even realize that I’m doing it, just that I’m rambling. However, I can promise you that I’ll at least try.” 

Taking another small step closer, now standing almost a hair’s breadth away, Miranda said, barely above a whisper, “That is more than enough for me, Andréa.” 

Even though Andy felt herself getting lost to the world due to Miranda’s close proximity, her senses being bewitchingly overwhelmed by all things Miranda, Andy’s intuition still told her that she was most likely about to receive a desirable kiss to the cheek from the older woman, causing her gaze to unconsciously lower to Miranda’s impossibly soft lips. 

Over the next couple of seconds, as Andy comprehended that Miranda still hadn’t moved a single inch closer to her, she belatedly realized that she was staring at Miranda’s mouth. Embarrassed, Andy moved her gaze upward, only to be captured by storming ocean blues. 

Andy felt her breathing deepen as her heart accelerated for the umpteenth time that evening. Slowly but surely, Miranda’s other hand came up, and Andy’s rapidly thrumming heart skipped a few beats as she felt the nearly imperceptible, feathery light touch of the tip of Miranda’s thumb come into contact with Andy’s bottom lip. Then, her heart seemingly stopped altogether, a delectable shiver coursed through her heated body, as the touch trailed over her sensitive skin, downwards, until her chin was being held between Miranda’s thumb and index finger. 

That was when Miranda started to lean forward, their transfixed gaze breaking as Miranda’s lowered. The sensual intensity of the moment nearly elicited a small moan from Andy’s mouth, but its escape was ceased, veered into a small intake of breath as she felt Miranda’s scorching lips touch her. 

The kiss wasn’t on her cheek, it wasn’t exactly on her mouth either. Miranda kissed her right on the corner of her lips. 

Andy hated, she fervently cursed herself that she couldn’t seem to make her body move. She could almost feel Miranda’s lips on hers, they were right there, not even half an inch away from hers. All she had to do was turn her head slightly and she would finally satisfy her impossible desire to feel, to know, what it was like to kiss Miranda. 

But it seemed like the universe was intent on depriving her of any more fateful fortunes today, since they had already been gifted by an unpredictable sunset. 

And that is exactly why the world is so notoriously known for being cruel and unfair, is what Andy was thinking as Miranda leaned away from her. 

“Thank you for tonight, Andréa,” Miranda whispered, eyes piercing Andy with a meaningful mystery once more. 

“Anytime, Miranda,” Andy said, voice shaky and hoarse. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” 

Smiling affectionately, Miranda replied with what seemed to be their customary goodbye, “And I, you.” 

Chapter Text

At exactly four p.m. on Friday, Andy rang the bell to the townhouse, and exactly five seconds later, the front door was flung open as she was greeted with a chorused, high-pitched squeal. 

"Andyyy!!” 

Beaming her mega-watt grin, Andy mimicked the twin’s voices as she squealed back with her arms wide open, “My tiny terrooors!” 

As the twins sandwiched Andy in a hug, Cassidy giggled, “You’re such a goofball.” 

Caroline declared as she pushed Andy inside the house. “You’re more of a dork, in my opinion.” 

“Hey!” Andy chuckled. “If squealing the same way the two of you did makes me a goofball and a dork, what does that say about you guys?” 

“That we’re kids, duh,” Caroline said, smirking. 

With the same wicked smile as her sister, Cassidy nodded in agreement. “Yeah, it’s kind of weird when an adult squeals, y’know.” 

“I see.” Andy shrugged. “Well, I’m perfectly fine with being considered weird. Life’s a lot more fun that way.” 

Cassidy giggled again. “Goofball.”  

“Dork,” Caroline added as she started to drag Andy along towards the kitchen. 

“A dorky goofball!” The girls chorused, then erupted in a fit of laughter. 

“Yup,” Andy quipped happily. “That’s me alright.” 

As the trio entered the kitchen, Cara looked up from the vegetables she was cutting and greeted Andy with a warm smile. “Hello there, Andy. It’s nice to see you again. I hope you’re all better after your little accident?” 

“Nice to see you too, Cara,” Andy greeted politely. “And yes, I’m all better now, thanks for asking.”  

“Cara’s making stir-fry and salmon for dinner,” Cassidy said as she climbed on one of the barstools at the counter. 

“That too healthy for you, Andy?” Caroline jested with another smirk as she sat down next to her sister. 

“Ha-ha.” Andy rolled her eyes good-naturedly, placing her hands on her hips. “I don’t live on take-out and snacks alone, y’know. I’m more than capable of cooking myself a decent meal.” 

Caroline snorted. “Seeing is believing, Andy.” 

Andy narrowed her eyes at her. “I helped you make that veggie lasagna for your mother a while back, didn’t I?” 

“That doesn’t count,” Cassidy said, feigning an unimpressed look on her face, then waved her hand dismissively. “You were just following Cara’s recipe.” 

Leaning on her forearms on the counter, Andy asked, “What about that omelet I made for breakfast that first time I’d stayed over?” 

Cassidy rolled her eyes as Caroline said, feigning being amazed, “Wow, did you hear that, Cara? Andy made an omelet. She should start her own cooking show now, don’t you think?” 

Andy huffed as Cara chuckled, then Cara said, “It was a decent omelet though. I’d seen the leftovers when I was cleaning up the kitchen that day.” 

“Thank you, Cara,” Andy said, overly grateful. “At least someone in this house is being nice to me. Seriously, what’s with all the tough love? First, they beat me to the floor, then, they imply that I’m just a weirdo, and now they’re mocking my cooking capabilities. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they’re set out to terrorize me. Got any advice on how to survive such torture?” 

Cara laughed as she shook her head. “Just give them each a chocolate bar, they’ll be quiet for about two minutes.” 

“Hey!” The twins chorused. 

“If we’re hard on you, that just means we like you, y’know,” Cassidy said. 

Then Caroline added, “And we’re terrors, after all. Wouldn’t do to grow all soft now, would it?” 

Andy let out a boisterous laugh. “I suppose not, you are your mother’s daughters, after all.” 

Caroline grinned proudly as she nodded firmly. “You got that right.” 

Then Cassidy finished as she pointed at Andy. “And don’t you forget it.” 

The two women laughed, then Andy agreed happily, “I wouldn’t dream of it.” 

Cara looked at the twins as she asked, “Why don’t you go finish up packing your bags while I make dinner? I’m sure that Andy would be more than happy to help you with that.” 

Andy narrowed her eyes at her. “I see what you’re doing, handing the terrors off to me so you can get a moment of peace. Well played, Cara.” 

Cara shrugged. “When an opportunity presents itself, why not take advantage of it?” 

“We’re right here, y’know,” Cassidy said as she eyed the two women with a piercing glare, eerily similar to that of her mother’s. 

“And just for that,” Caroline interjected haughtily, chin tilting upwards, “You’re taking down our suitcases when we’re done, Andy.” 

Andy smirked as she crossed her arms over her chest. “Oh, am I now?” 

“Yup,” Caroline quipped as she jumped off the barstool and started dragging Andy out of the kitchen. “And you’ll do so without complaint if you know what’s good for you. If you think we were tough on you before...” 

“Then you got another thing coming when you don’t comply to our demands,” Cassidy finished in a no-nonsense tone. 

Andy laughed once more as she shook her head. “Definitely your mother’s daughters. Trust me, I know better than to disobey a Priestly’s wishes.” 

“As you should,” Cassidy said, grinning. 

Caroline smirked wickedly. “Seems like you were able to learn something worthwhile from Mom, after all.”  

“Hey!” Andy gasped, feigning being offended as she placed a hand on her chest. “I’ve learned quite a bit from your mother, y’know. And do you really think she would’ve kept me around as her assistant for this long if she thought I was a slow learner?” 

“Hm, guess you got a point,” Caroline answered in a bored tone as they entered her bedroom. 

“So, what did you learn from Mom?” Cassidy asked curiously as she sat down on the edge of her sister’s bed. 

Andy sat down next to her, pondering for a moment as she watched Caroline stuff a couple of t-shirts in her small travel suitcase. “Well, aside from numerous things I’ve learned to work my way around the business and publishing industry, she taught me how to stand up for myself, to not take ‘no’ for an answer. I was faced quite a number of times with situations where people didn’t readily comply with what I asked of them. Believe me, in this industry, people tend to make things a lot more difficult than necessary. And I’m sure you know that it’s entirely unacceptable to come up empty-handed, or tell your mother that I wasn’t able to do what she’d asked of me because I let someone walk all over me. So, I had no choice but to grow some backbone and learn how to be assertive when I needed something.” She paused for a short moment as she contemplated the changes she’s gone through. “Before I met your mother, I was too, yielding, I suppose. And if you want to make it out there in the world, you’ve got to know how to not give in so easily, be prepared for anything, so you can work a situation to your advantage.” 

“Yeah.” Cassidy nodded in agreement. “I know what you mean. There was this one time where a teacher didn’t agree with my standpoint on a topic we were discussing in class. She just disregarded everything I had said. That night, Mom told me that when I believe in something, I have the perfect right to defend my opinions, and that I shouldn’t just concede and accept what other people think, even if that person is an adult, because everybody can be wrong about something. It’s okay to have a difference in opinion, but it’s not okay to disrespect someone if you don’t agree with them.” 

Caroline interjected then, “I remember that day. Cass was so cool during Ms. Bennett’s next class, Andy. Cass took up half an hour of defending her point of view as she laid out a whole book’s worth of research to prove that Ms. Bennett was wrong in her assumptions. And in the end, Ms. Bennett could no longer deny that Cass was right, it was so epic.” She turned to look at her sister then. “It was the first time where I really saw you stand up for yourself. I was so freakin’ proud of you that day.” 

Cassidy chuckled shyly. “Thanks, Sis.” Looking back at Andy, she asked, “So, what else did you learn from Mom?” 

“Let’s see,” Andy said, smiling absentmindedly as she thought about it. “Because of your mother, I now honestly believe in myself, and that’s there’s nothing I can’t do. I may struggle along the way, but if I truly want something, want to achieve something, then there’s no such thing as an obstacle too big to overcome. You simply have to believe in yourself and in your abilities, as well as continuing to improve everything about yourself, and never settle for anything less. If you wield your potential while thinking that nothing is impossible, then before you know it, you’ll feel strong enough to conquer the world, so to speak.” 

“Definitely,” Caroline nodded fervently. “About two years ago, our coach said that my aim wasn’t good enough to play as a center forward on the team. That got me really bummed out. When I came home the next day, I noticed a goal had been set up in our backyard. Mom sat me down that evening and told me that if I truly want something, that I should believe in myself, and always give it my all because nothing is truly ever out of reach, and that I’ll always have people who will support and believe in me. Cass was out there with me every single day, helping me practice my shots while Mom watched on with this proud look on her face. Then, suddenly, I was scoring more goals during our matches than I ever had before. Coach took notice...” 

“And now she’s undeniably the best player on the team,” Cassidy finished proudly as she fist-bumped her sister. 

Andy chuckled in amusement. “I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever about that. I think I might still have a bit of a bump on my head to prove it.” 

The twins giggled at that, then Caroline asked as she took a seat next to Andy, “What else?” 

Andy gazed up at the ceiling as she contemplated everything she’d learned from Miranda. She unconsciously let out a quiet hum as she acknowledged that there was one thing that superiorly topped everything else. 

The discovery of her capability to love someone so infinitely. 

Before, Andy had believed that she knew what it meant to love someone. She had had a couple of boyfriends throughout high school, and at the time, she was convinced that she understood the concept of love. But it wasn’t until she met Nate when she had been in college, that she’d comprehended how insignificant her high school relationships had been. What she had had with Nate in their first years as a couple, had been such a wonderful time in her life. They did everything together, and every day had brought about so much joyous laughter, that she had been convinced that he had to be the one. Andy knew that there had been a time in their relationship that she was truly in love with Nate, and yet, she now realized that their love wasn’t as fulfilling as she once thought it was. 

Therefore, as she looked back on it now, what she had felt for him was, without question, nothing compared to what she was feeling for Miranda. And as she thought about it some more, Andy couldn’t help but feel somewhat astounded by the comparison, since it had been quite the profound revelation when Andy had come to realize that she’d fallen in love with Miranda, which had knocked her world completely off its axis, into a whole other galaxy altogether. 

As Andy contemplated the passing of time, and the growing of their connection, she suddenly truly grasped just how hard, how fiercely she’d fallen. Andy could not deny that she was utterly consumed by the feeling, by Miranda. She was the first thing Andy thought about in the morning, and the last before she fell asleep.  

Andy had never felt such a powerful, such a full-of-life exhilaration before, and at the same time, she had never experienced something so utterly terrifying either. You could almost compare it to jumping off a plane, only to watch how your parachute wouldn’t open. Imagine the feeling you’d get from hoping, willing the parachute to save you because you’re certain that this could not, would not  be the end, desperately, yet determinately clinging onto life, in addition with fearing, thinking you were about to die, feeling as if life itself was being sucked out of you by the terrifying prospect of your downfall, those overwhelming contradicting sensations, that’s how falling in love with Miranda was like for Andy. 

She knew she’d jumped, and was now descending into the unknown, wishing with all her heart that Miranda would be there to catch her, yet utterly frightened that she would hit rock bottom, breaking her heart into an incalculable number of irreparable pieces. 

And even with such a terrifying, unascertained prospect, Andy couldn’t help but accept the fall, because if there was even the slightest possibility that Miranda was there to catch her, Andy would undoubtedly risk far more than a deadly drop to have a chance to be with her.  

And if such a chance were ever to become reality, then, well, if Miranda would ask of her to reach for the stars, Andy would lasso for the moon as well. If Miranda would ask the world of her, Andy would give her the universe too.  

“She taught me what it means to garner strength and resolve out of hope,” Andy said softly as she continued to drift in her contemplative daze, a distant, yet resolute look on her face. “That when you’re feeling uncertain about something, it shouldn’t deter you from going after what you want. Nothing should hold you back if you feel the need to unravel doubts, ease your concerns, no matter how unsettled it makes you feel. Even if you feel like you’ve got so much to lose in the process, you shouldn’t stray off your course, because it’s ultimately better to know the answers to your questions, so you’ll know what to do about it, than to continue guessing and worrying, because that will lead you nowhere. You’ve got to take action and will your hope into existence.” 

Caroline leaned backward until she was lying down on the bed, then said, sounding slightly confused. “I don’t think I really get what you’re saying.” 

“Hm,” Andy hummed as she lied down next to Caroline, then Cassidy mimicked their movement, except that she turned sideways to rest her head on Andy’s shoulder.  

“Well, think about it this way,” Andy began, smiling tenderly as Caroline grasped her hand and began playing with her fingers. “If you truly care about someone, you’ll want to go above and beyond to make that person happy, right?” 

From the corners of her eyes, Andy saw both girls nodding their agreement. 

“But what if you think that person might not care for you the same way as you do? Should that stop you from following your heart, give in to your insecurities, meaning you’ll continue to dwell on what-if -questions, or do you go the extra mile, so you can find out what lies beyond the horizon? Even if it means that the  answers  you’ll get might not be the ones you’re looking for, but in the end, you’ll at least know you’ve done something about it, and you’ll know where you stand in the world.” 

After a quiet moment, Cassidy whispered, “I’d choose to be brave.” 

“Yeah,” Caroline breathed as she turned sideways so she could rest her head on Andy’s other shoulder. 

Due to Andy being slightly lost in her own musings, she didn’t see that the twins were having a quiet conversation as they looked at each other across Andy’s chest. 

Cassidy broke the silence at Caroline’s firm nod. “Hey, Andy?” She asked, barely above a whisper. 

“Hm?” Andy hummed in response. 

“Do you like Mom?” Cassidy asked curiously, yet seriously. 

The unexpected question registering, Andy blinked back into the present as her body tensed up. The girls took notice as they shared another knowing look with one another. 

Feeling as if she were a deer caught in headlights, Andy nevertheless tried to play it off, hoping an act of ignorance would be sufficient enough to throw the twins off the scent they seemingly have picked up on. “Well, yeah. We’re... friends, after all.” 

Cassidy huffed as she rolled her eyes, lifting herself off Andy’s shoulder to lean on her elbow, fixating Andy with a laser-like glare. “You know that’s not what I meant.” 

Andy gulped, trying to hide the sudden unease she felt. “Uhm, then what-, I mean, I don’t know-” 

Caroline cut her off as she copied her sister’s stance over Andy, affixing her with her own narrow-eyed glare. “Don’t play dumb, Andy. You know what we’re asking. You like Mom, don’t you?” 

Andy felt the sudden urge to bolt from the room, but found that being pinned down by two mini-Miranda glares was equally terrifying and paralyzing as the original one. “Girls, I-, I don’t-” 

“And don’t you dare lie to us,” Caroline cut her off sternly. 

“We can sniff out a lie from miles away,” Cassidy added as she narrowed her gaze as well. 

Andy was completely blown away by how intimidated she felt by two eleven-year-olds, and slightly irritated with herself for being so careless. Of course, the girls were bound to put two and two together as she’d voiced her ruminations, since she foolishly hadn’t bothered to filter her explanations because she was only talking to a couple of kids, kids with cunning minds well beyond their years. 

Andy sighed heavily, then shook her head slightly. “I don’t know what you want me to say, girls.” 

“Just admit it already,” Caroline said, clearly growing frustrated by Andy’s reluctance. 

“And then what?” Andy asked defensively. “Are you going to mock me for the fool I am?” 

“What? No, of course, not,” Cassidy said gently, trying to ease the suddenly growing tension. “We just need confirmation. It’s like you said, Andy. We shouldn’t dwell on what-ifs...” 

Caroline interjected then, “But be brave and find out what lies beyond, so we’ll know where we stand...” 

“Together,” Cassidy finished. 

Andy swallowed down the lump she felt growing in her throat, then released another sigh. “Alright,” she began, willing herself to stop worrying and to accept whatever was about to unfold with their conversation. “Fine, you sneaky little minxes. Yes, I do like your mother.” 

The twins sat up straight, then nodded simultaneously, seemingly satisfied with Andy’s confession. 

Andy sat back up as well, feeling a bit apprehensive, yet intrigued as to why the girls decided to broach the subject. “How did you girls figure it out anyway?” 

Caroline answered in a tone as if the answer should’ve been utterly obvious. “We have eyes, duh.” 

Rolling her eyes, Cassidy added in the same tone as her sister, “And we may be only a couple of kids, but we’re not dumb, y’know.” 

“You’re not exactly subtle, Andy,” Caroline said, smirking. “You have a horrible poker face, seriously, you’re like an open book.” 

Cassidy nodded in agreement as she said, “It’s sort of ridiculously obvious how you can’t seem to take your eyes off Mom. Plus, you’re like, constantly blushing when she’s talking, or even looking at you.” 

“And,” Caroline drawled, grinning wickedly. “It was really funny to watch how you turned into putty in Mom’s hands as she took care of you when you hit your head last week. You were like this needy, little, purring kitty that was being scratched behind its ears.” 

The girls giggled at Andy’s horrified expression as she said, sounding outraged, “I did not look like a kitty! Putty, maybe, but certainly not a purring cat!” 

The twins laughed loudly at that, then Caroline said, “Whatever floats your boat, Andy.” 

“But we were there, so deny it all you want, we know the truth,” Cassidy said, giggling gleefully. 

“Whatever,” Andy huffed as she crossed her arms, then uncrossed them as she looked from one twin to the other before she asked curiously, “So, you girls don’t think it’s weird, me, liking your mother?” 

The twins glanced at each other before looking back at Andy again, then Cassidy asked, “Why would we think it’s weird?” 

Andy blinked as she tilted her head slightly to the side, then said, feeling a bit apprehensive, “Well, for starters, because I’m a girl, that likes another girl, well, woman.” 

Caroline shook her head as she frowned. “Don’t be silly, what’s wrong with that?” 

Andy found herself utterly speechless as she looked back and forth between them. 

Caroline chuckled lightly at Andy’s dumbfounded look. “Really, it’s okay, Andy. We’re well aware that two women, or two men can love each other.” 

Cassidy nodded firmly in agreement. “Totally, there are several gay kids that go to our school, and one of our friends has two moms. Our school also has a very strict policy against discrimination. So, we’ve been made aware on several assemblies about the LGBTQ community.” 

Then Caroline began shyly as she started tugging on her fingers. “Also, I talked to Mom about the issue once.” She paused for a moment as she glanced up to see Andy looking at her attentively with a gentle smile, then at her sister who smiled as well as she gave her an encouraging nod. “There’s uh-, been a girl, not that long ago, on our soccer team,” she admitted softly, looking down at her hands. “I think I might’ve liked her, but she moved away shortly after. So, I never really got the chance to figure out what it meant, for me. It’s uh-, it's just really confusing. But Mom-, well, I just had a really hard time understanding it, myself, I guess, and I still do sometimes. That’s why I eventually-, well, Cass sort of forced me to-” 

“I did not,” Cassidy interrupted, but her gentle look never left her features. “I was merely trying to help you and encourage you to talk about your feelings, since you tend to close yourself off sometimes.” 

Caroline shrugged sheepishly, but then nodded nevertheless. “Anyway, so I decided to talk to Mom about it, which had been a million types of awkward, y’know.” 

All three of them chuckled lightly at that before Caroline continued, “But once Mom started talking after I’d said my part, she made sure that all that awkwardness I felt just simply went up in smoke. That’s when I realized that I just needed reassurance that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. She said that it’s normal to feel confused, since I’m still a kid, and that over time, I’ll come to discover everything about myself, and until I do, she’ll always be there to support me, because she loves me no matter what.” 

When Andy was sure that Caroline was done talking, she laid her arm across the girl’s shoulders and pulled her into a sideways hug. “Thank you for telling me that, kiddo. That was really brave of you. I understand exactly how you feel, since I thought I’d been straight as an arrow a couple of months ago. But your mother turned my world completely upside down on that front.” 

Caroline mumbled shyly as she asked, “So, you only just realized that you might be into girls as well?” 

Andy nodded, starting to feel a bit shy too. “I’d never felt anything romantic towards girls before your mother, that’s why I completely understand you in regards to how confusing it can be when you’re learning something new about yourself. But it’s as your mother said, never doubt that you have people that support and love you for who you are while you figure it all out, kiddo. You’ve got me in your corner now as well. And if you ever want to talk about, I’ll be right here,” Andy finished as she squeezed Caroline a little tighter against herself. 

“Thanks, Andy,” Caroline said, grinning up at her. 

“So, no,” Cassidy spoke up then as she looked at Andy. “We don’t think it’s weird that you like Mom, and we’re also sure that Mom accepts love for what it is, in whichever form it may come. So, at least that’s something you no longer have to worry about, in case you were concerned about Mom being appalled by something like that.” 

Andy pulled Cassidy against her other side for a hug as she said, “Thanks, Cass.” 

She considered the twins for a moment as they rested comfortably against her. “Girls?” 

“Hm?” Both girls hummed as they looked up at Andy again. 

“What do you-, I mean,” Andy began as she thought about the best way to put it. “What are your thoughts and feelings about all this, about me, liking your mother? I mean, I’m sure you understand that this is a rather unusual predicament I’m in, since I’m your mother’s assistant, and there’s the age difference to consider as well. Then there’s also the fact that I’m pretty much from an entirely different world than her, since your mother is like, the Queen of Fashion who’s pretty much known around the world, and I’m just-, well, I’m just Andy. Are you sure you’re really okay with this? Because I want you to be honest with me if you’re not, alright?” 

After another short moment of silent twin communication, Caroline answered first, “We don’t care that you’re younger than Mom.” 

Then Cassidy added, “And we don’t see why your jobs should have anything to do with it.”  

Caroline nodded as she continued, “We don’t care about the press either. Sure, they're a huge pain in the ass, but Mom has taught us not to care about other people’s opinions.” 

“And we don’t see why you think it’s an issue that you’re from a different world than Mom,” Cassidy said, “Why should that matter? If two people like each other, no matter their background, shouldn’t that be enough?” 

Caroline nodded once more, “And it’s because you’re Andy that we’re fine with it.” 

“Definitely,” Cassidy interjected firmly. “We don’t want some other father figure like Stephen was supposed to be. He failed miserably on that part, on any part, really.” 

“Totally,” Caroline agreed, “Stephen was a total douche, we never liked him. He couldn‘t even tell us apart most of the time, so it was sort of obvious that he didn’t like us either. We could never, for the life of us, figure out what Mom saw in him.” 

“But we like you,” Cassidy continued, firm voice growing softer. “You could tell us apart from the start, and you treat us like we’re our own person. You understand that we’re different from each other.” 

“And we know that you’re not after Mom’s money, or fame,” Caroline asserted, “Cass and I talked about this once, way back after you’d given us the Harry Potter book. We immediately noticed that you weren’t like Mom’s other assistants. You came off as such a silly dork, and you didn’t seem to be faking your kindness just to get on Mom’s good side. You also didn’t sell us out to Mom when we pranked you with the Book, sorry ‘bout that anyway.” 

Then Cassidy revealed, “So, we became sort of curious as to who you were, since you weren’t Mom’s typical assistant. We wanted to know why she hired you, and why she was keeping you around. That’s why we waited for you when you dropped off the Book.” 

“We knew that you were worried about getting caught by Mom, but you tried not to let it show. Instead, you stayed to listen to whatever we were saying, no matter how insignificant the subject was,” Caroline said, smiling up at Andy. 

Smiling contently as well, Cassidy added, “You talked real to us, not like we were just a couple of dumb and spoiled brats. You showed absolutely no signs of judgment just because of who our mom is.” 

Nodding, Caroline said, “We could also tell that you were honestly interested in us, that you wanted to get to know us better because we guessed that you took a liking to us.” 

“That’s why we took a liking to you as well,” Cassidy stated. “Because you weren’t like anyone we’ve ever met before. You’re easy to talk to, since you really listen and truly consider everything we’ve got to say. Like you did just now, by asking what we think and feel about you, liking Mom. You care about our opinions.” 

“And that’s probably one of the biggest reasons why we know that Mom likes you as well,” Caroline finished, grinning. 

Andy’s head was slightly spinning by the back-and-forth motion as she regarded each of the girls as they spoke, overwhelmed, yet gratified by their entire conversation. An affectionate look blossomed on Andy’s features then as she silently gazed back at them. 

“What?” Carline asked, raising an eyebrow. 

Andy shook her head as she chuckled softly. “Nothing, it’s just, you two are something else entirely, y’know. I guess I just want to say, thank you, for this, for being so supportive and honest with me. I can’t tell you how much I needed a talk like this. And I need you to know, I like you girls a lot as well. I mean it, you’re very dear to me. So, don’t you ever hesitate if you feel the need to talk, or need help with something. I promise I’ll always be there to support you, alright?” 

Both girls nodded, smiling happily as Cassidy said, “We know, Andy. But thank you.” 

Caroline leaned towards Andy, then asked in a secretive hushed whisper, “So, are you two like, dating, or what?” 

“What?” Andy asked, frowning slightly in confusion. “No, of course, not. What makes you think that?” 

Turning to face Andy, now sitting cross-legged, Cassidy said, “Why wouldn’t we think that? I mean, you’re constantly talking to each other, and Mom is, well, Mom around you.” 

“Which could only mean that she likes you too,” Caroline added, moving to sit the same way as her sister. 

“That doesn’t mean she likes me more than just a friend though, girls. And it seems like you’re forgetting that she’s still my boss.” Andy tried to reason. 

“So? What’s that got to do with anything?” Caroline asked, head slightly tilted to the side. 

“Actually, I think it’s got a lot to do with it,” Cassidy interjected as she looked at her sister. “When has Mom ever befriended one of her assistants before?” 

“Never,” Caroline answered. 

Cassidy nodded. “Exactly, the fact that she allowed Andy into our home, our lives, even though she’s her assistant, is reason enough to assume that Mom likes Andy.” 

Andy spoke up then, “That still doesn’t suggest that your mother likes me more than just her friend though.” 

“Yeah, I guess,” Cassidy sighed. “It’s just that we’ve never seen Mom interact with someone else the way she does with you, not with a friend like Auntie ‘Tella, and not with Dad, or Stephen.” 

“What makes you say that?” Andy asked curiously. 

“Well, Mom never smiled, and I mean like really smile, when Stephen was around,” Caroline said as she traced the knuckle of her index finger over her chin. 

“And she never joked around with him either, but she does so freely when you’re around,” Cassidy added, her brow furrowed in thought. 

Then Caroline said, smirking slightly, “Mom hated going out to dinner with him too, she tried to avoid him at all cost, which meant she was working all the time, and yet, she went out with you twice in a row, and now, she almost always makes it home on time to have dinner with us.” 

“She didn’t even mind it one tiny bit when you stayed over, not just for the night, but when you stayed for lunch or dinner,” Cassidy grinned winningly. 

“Mom never allowed anyone to stay the night before, but you did twice already,” Caroline said with a twinkle in her eyes. 

Cassidy nodded as she said happily, “And I’m pretty sure those won’t have been the last times either.” 

“Ooh,” Caroline breathed, then smiled widely. “And I’ve even seen her wait to work on the Book until she was done talking to you on the phone. That’s like...” 

“A humongous deal,” Cassidy finished as she giggled. 

“Okay, okay, alright, I get it,” Andy said, not knowing if she should allow herself to feel gladdened by the twins’ speculative conclusions, or wary of their, likely to be misplaced, vigilance.  

“Do you? Do you really?” Caroline asked, as serious as she’s ever been. 

“I mean,” Andy began, scratching at her temple. “Yeah, I get that she must like me, but that still doesn’t imply anything, well, romantic, I suppose.” Clearing her throat, she continued, “So, all that, could also, most likely, just suggest that she likes me in a..., well, best friend type of way?” Andy cringed slightly as she voiced that aloud. 

“But what if she does,” Caroline asserted, growing impatient once more. “What are you gonna do about it?” 

“Yeah,” Cassidy nodded, a challenge glimmering in her eyes. “Why don’t you just find out if she likes you or not? Y’know, go above and beyond, following your heart, go the extra mile to find out what lies beyond the horizon, and all that gobbledygook you were talking about earlier.” 

Andy couldn’t help but chuckle at that, then admitted shyly, “Well, actually, girls, I had sort of planned to talk to your mother about that, tonight.” 

“Really?!” The twins chorused in disbelief, yet seemingly ecstatic. 

Andy nodded. “Yeah, I’ve been..., kind of struggling, I guess, with not knowing if your mother might ever see me as-, something more. So, it sort of left me with no choice, really, then to grow a pair and, well, talk to your mother about it.” Andy started fidgeting with her hands. “Honestly, the whole thing has got me freaking out a little. Because, well, I uhm-” She paused for a moment, digging deep to find the courage to actually voice her concerns out loud for the first time. “I’m afraid.” 

Caroline frowned as she asked gently, “Why?” 

Andy clasped her hands together to stop herself from fidgeting in her nervous habit. “I don’t want to lose her.” 

It was Cassidy’s turn to frown as she tilted her head to the side. “Why do you think you’d lose her?” 

Andy sighed heavily. “It’s just-, I realize all too well that your mother might never return my feelings. So, if I were to confess to her about how I feel, and she doesn’t think of me the same way, I fear it will most likely cause a rift to form between us.” She lost the battle with herself as she started fidgeting again. “I really like what your mother and I have right now, so it almost seems stupid to jeopardize our friendship because of me being selfish, since I can’t help but wanting more.” 

“But what if Mom does like you back?” Caroline asked. “Isn’t that worth the risk, then?” 

Andy smiled slightly, however it was solely tinged with solemnness, then whispered, “It’d be worth everything.” 

“So, you’re going to talk to her? When we’re off to Dad’s?” Cassidy asked, eyeing Andy with a hint of concern. 

Andy nodded as she mumbled, “That was the plan.” 

“What are you going to say?” Caroline asked curiously. 

Andy shrugged her shoulders as she said, “I’m not entirely sure. I had thought about preparing myself for this conversation, but I sort of fell short on that. I realized this isn’t something I could prepare beforehand. I think I just need to jump off the cliff and see where the fall takes me, I’ll just let the moment, and whatever your mother might say, guide me through it.” 

“You’re so corny.” Caroline giggled. 

“But I like it, it’s honest.” Cassidy smiled gently. 

After nibbling on her bottom lip for a short moment, Andy admitted, “I just don’t know what I’ll do if your mother rejects me. It’s going to hurt, badly, but I’ll understand. I just-, I don’t want to lose what we’ve got, that includes the two of you.” 

Cassidy reached forward to grab Andy’s hand between her own as she reassured her, “You can’t think like that, Andy. Try to stay positive. We’ll figure out the rest as we go, because one thing’s for certain...” 

“There’s no way in hell you’re getting rid of us,” Caroline quipped playfully as she flung her arms around Andy’s neck. “We like you, so you’re stuck with us, deal with it.” 

Andy laughed happily, yet emotionally at that as she grabbed the twins around their waist and pulled them down on the bed for a hug, then said, “I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re my terrors, after all.” 

The twins giggled as they snuggled closer to Andy’s sides as Cassidy said, “And don’t you forget it.” 

“Because we’ll make you pay dearly if you do,” Caroline threatened playfully.  

Andy grinned widely as she said, “I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever about that.” 

“About what?” came the soft, yet curious voice of the twins’ mother who was leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed over her chest, and an amused smile on her features. 

All three heads, each bearing a deer caught in headlight expression, turned to look at Miranda whilst hastily moving to sit upright again. 

“Mom!” The twins exclaimed the same time Andy breathed, “Miranda.” 

“What are the three of you talking about?” Miranda asked as she walked over to Caroline’s suitcase, pursing her lips slightly upon finding that none of the clothes had been folded but rather carelessly stuffed inside. Shaking her head, Miranda rolled the suitcase over to Caroline’s desk and began the process of packing anew, neatly folding each article of clothing before gently putting it back in the suitcase. Looking back up to regard the trio again, she raised an immaculate eyebrow when no answer had yet been forthcoming. “Well?” she drawled. 

Andy rubbed at the back of her neck, Caroline started tugging on her fingers, and Cassidy played with the hem of her t-shirt. “Nothing,” the trio said simultaneously. 

At Miranda’s narrowing, suspicious gaze, Cassidy quipped, “We’re just messing around, y’know, since Andy’s a pretty easy target.” 

“Yeah,” Caroline grinned as she nodded her head fervently. “Just striking a bit of harmless fear into our Andy here, so she’ll never forget as to whom she belongs to.” 

Miranda blinked, then said softly, sounding a little breathless, “What?” 

Andy was absolutely powerless to the blush she felt creeping up her neck and cheeks. Trying to divert from the topic, she said while giving each of the twins a pointed look, “And now that we’ve established that, I’ll always be there for you Priestlys, how about you help your mother pack, Caroline? And I’ll help Cassidy with her suitcase.” 

“Fine,” they mumbled, but their eyes shone with gleeful mischief. 

*** 

After Andy set down the suitcases near the front door in the foyer, she turned around to see Miranda watching her, standing on the last step of the stairs, an unreadable, yet thoughtful look on her face. 

Andy walked over to her, circled her arm around the top of the newel post of the banister, and leaned against it while looking up at Miranda with a gentle smile. “How was your day?” 

Miranda sighed wearily. “Rather hectic. Your absence from the office has been entirely unacceptable. I’m afraid we have a lot to catch up on next week. I hope you are up for it. How have you been feeling?” 

“I think I’m completely healed,” Andy said, slightly blushing once more. “Haven’t had a headache all day. I’m sorry I wasn’t there this week to help out. I would’ve returned sooner, but someone was quite adamant on me getting adequate rest.” 

“Hm,” Miranda hummed, her lips slightly twitched, seemingly to hide a smile. “Seems like that someone gave you some wise advice, since you are all better now.” 

Andy smirked in amusement, then nodded. “Yeah, she’s definitely one smart cookie.” 

Miranda let out a rich, unbridled, charmingly dazzling laughter. “I don’t think anyone has ever called me that before.” 

Andy chuckled, feeling positively bedazzled as she said, “They wouldn’t have dared, unless they’d been looking to be banned from New York.” 

“But not you though,” Miranda said softly, stepping down the final step of the stairs, causing her to stand nearly chest to chest with the younger woman. “You have always been rather daring, haven’t you, Andréa?” After a short, yet heavy pause, Miranda added, voice and gaze laced with a meaningful implication that traced all the way back to the first time they’d met. “Or else you would not be standing here.” 

Andy was having a pretty hard time hiding the fact that Miranda’s close proximity was currently affecting her breathing, since she was entirely engulfed in Miranda’s perfume, mixed with an ambrosial scent that solely belonged to the older woman. Feeling slightly light-headed, Andy breathed, “I do try, but it’s not always been easy.” Looking up from underneath her lashes, lowering her voice, Andy added, “Especially when it comes to you.” 

With a lower cadence to her voice as well, raising the hairs on Andy’s arms, Miranda asked, “And why is that, Andréa?” 

After a short moment, that found Andy steeling her nerves, she said, “I’m willing to tell you all about that, as I promised yesterday, after the twins’ have gone to their father’s.” 

Out of all the looks Andy had expected to receive from Miranda, the one she was currently faced with was definitely not one of them. In fact, she’d never seen such a morphing of Miranda’s features before. The older woman looked... guilty? 

“About that,” Miranda mumbled. “I’m afraid I have another engagement I have to attend tonight.” 

Andy blinked, taking a small step back. “Oh, I see.” At Miranda’s conscience-stricken look, Andy smiled reassuringly. “I understand, Miranda. A woman’s work is never done, is it? Especially for someone in your position.” 

“Yes, well,” Miranda began as she reached up to fiddle with her necklace. “Perhaps we could-, discuss this over the weekend? Say, tomorrow?” 

Andy nodded shyly, yet eagerly. “Of course.” 

*** 

After a wonderful time during dinner, Miranda announced to the twins that she was going to prepare for an engagement she needed to attend. Andy noticed the slightly confused look on Miranda’s face due to the twins’ not-so-subtle approach in their disapproval of their mother’s evening plans. 

“Do you really have to go, Mom? Can’t it wait? I thought you were spending the evening with Andy?” Caroline nearly whined, rinsing off their dishes and then handing them to her sister who placed them in the dishwasher. 

Miranda sighed heavily. “I’m afraid it cannot wait, Bobbsey. It’s rather important.” 

“So is Andy,” Cassidy mumbled. “I thought you liked spending time with her.” 

Miranda blinked at that, seemingly at a loss for words for a moment as she glanced at Andy, who was currently failing miserably at hiding from the little quarrel between the twins and Miranda by slumping down in her chair.  

Standing ever so gracefully from her seat, Miranda walked over to her children, grabbing each of their chins in her hands and raising their sulky faces so she could look them in the eyes as she said, “Don’t get me wrong, Bobbseys. Andréa is important, but this is a meeting of utmost significance to me.” Then, as an afterthought, Miranda added, “To us.” 

“But-” Caroline began but was cut off by Andy who rose from her seat and walked over to the Priestlys. 

“Really, it’s fine, girls,” Andy said with a reassuring smile. “You know as much as I do that your mother has a lot of obligations she needs to fulfill. Besides, we’ve established already that I’m coming over again tomorrow. So, stop worrying about me missing out on some time spent with your mother. We’ll have each other’s undivided attention tomorrow, alright?” 

The twins nodded in reluctant agreement as Miranda looked at Andy, mouthing a silent “thank you” before looking back down at her daughters. “Now, go spend some time with Andréa before Roy gets here to take you to your father’s.” 

*** 

“This sucks,” Caroline huffed as she plopped down onto the couch in their playroom. 

“Hey, c’mon now,” Andy said as she sat down next to her. “There’s no reason to be upset, Care. I accept the fact that your mother is a busy person. It honestly doesn’t matter to me if I have to wait another day to talk to her. Why are you guys so bothered by this anyway? You know how important your mother’s job is.” 

Sitting down on the floor in front of Andy, Cassidy said, “I guess we were just hoping that things would be different this time around.” 

Tilting her head slightly to the side, Andy asked, “What do you mean?” 

Mumbling, Caroline answered, “I just hate it when Mom puts her job first. She missed so many of my dance recitals, or Cass's piano recitals, or our soccer matches, because she just had to attend another engagement.” She finished with a roll of her eyes. 

Cassidy nodded dully, “Yeah, I just don’t want her to think that it’s okay to treat you like she did Stephen.” 

“Whoa, hold on there a sec,” Andy interjected. “First of all, girls. It’s okay to hope, but in this case, I think you're getting your hopes up too high. Your mother and I aren’t together, and I need you to realize that there’s a very real possibility that we’ll never be. It will be disappointing, for sure, if she rejects me, but I need you to comprehend just as I do, that if she does, it’ll be okay. You can’t force someone to, well, to love you, y’know? So, promise me, that you won’t hold it against her if nothing will come out of this. There’s no fault, and no one’s to blame if things don’t go the way you want them to. Alright, girls?” 

Caroline sighed heavily, then crossed her arms as she said, “Yeah, we get it. Still sucks though.” 

“But what if it does go the way we want it to?” Cassidy asked resolutely. “I don’t want things to go back to the way they were when Stephen was around. Mom had been so busy with work, she never made time for him, and things got bad between them. Then, we barely saw her, she was practically never around while he was living here.” 

Caroline interjected, “Mom did everything she could to avoid him, it was like she only came home to sleep, then it was off to work again. We felt like she’d forgotten that we live here too, forgotten us.” 

“I guess we’re just afraid that her devotion to her job will mess this up as well,” Cassidy added sourly. “I think you two could be really good together, but honestly, I doubt that she’ll ever put a relationship above her job.” 

Caroline nodded in agreement. “Her job is everything to her, she practically lives and breathes for Runway. And it’s just that, you guys aren’t even together yet, and you already have to deal with the consequences.” 

“Okay,” Andy said as she poked them both on the foreheads. “Let me stop you right there, kiddos. I know I shouldn’t be cussing around children, but in this case, I’ll make an exception. Stephen is a grade-A asshole.” 

The twins looked up at her at that, Caroline smirked as Cassidy giggled whilst they both nodded their heads in agreement. 

Andy’s face turned serious as she continued, “He should’ve known what he was getting himself into when marrying your mother. He probably expected her to turn into a good little housewife along the way, and you know just as much as I do that your mother will never fit into that description, right?”  

She waited for the twins to acknowledge that statement with a nod. “A big difference between him and me is that I know who your mother is, what she can be like, and there’s absolutely nothing that I would change about her. To me, she’s perfect just the way she is. If that means that I have to accept the fact that she’ll have no choice but to blow me off every now and then, well, consider it accepted.”  

After a short pause, Andy continued, “But that does not mean that it’s always okay for her to do so. She’ll have to meet me halfway on some point, and guess what?”  

Andy asked as a gentle smile blossomed on her features. “She already is. Because it wasn’t me that suggested that I should come back tomorrow, your mother asked me to. This proves that she’s willing to, make up for lost time, so to speak. This means that, if something ever were to happen between your mother and me, we’re already doing things differently than in her previous relationships. Can you guys see what I’m talking about?” 

“Yeah,” Cassidy said lightly. “I guess you’re right.” 

Andy nodded firmly. “So, stop worrying your pretty little heads. Just realize that the outcome we want, might not happen, and that it’s okay. But if it does, I’ll make sure, along with you guys apparently, that we’ll make this work, alright? Can you get behind that?” 

“Yeah,” Caroline said quietly. “We can, Andy.” 

“Good,” Andy said as she ruffled their hair. 

Just then, the bell to the townhouse rang. 

The twins looked at each other, then Cassidy said, “Roy isn’t supposed to be here yet.” 

Caroline jumped off the couch. “I’ll get it.” 

Andy and Cassidy followed her down to the foyer. Halfway through the final flight of stairs, Andy heard Caroline ask, “Who the hell are you?” 

“Caroline,” Andy reprimanded. “That’s no way to answer the-” She faltered, halting to a sudden stop in the middle of the foyer as she saw who was standing at the front door. 

“Good evening, ladies,” The man greeted politely with a rather charming, pearly-white smile. “I’m Arthur, I’m here to pick up your mother.” 

Andy had never before felt such a dreadful weight crashing down into the pit of her stomach, seemingly dragging her blood with it as she felt it draining from her face. It wasn’t until her lungs were burning that Andy realized she’d stopped breathing altogether due to a distressing constricted sensation she felt around her throat.  

There, standing on the front porch to Miranda’s house, was in fact, Arthur Alastair, the same guy from the benefit. The same guy who’d been whispering in Miranda’s ear that night, who’d been able to elicit a laugh out of Miranda, who’d dared to lay his hand on her, which Miranda hadn’t seemed to mind. A man, seemingly worthy of Miranda’s status, looking all dapper, handsome, and obviously wealthy in his perfectly tailored suit. It was entirely obnoxious, yet imposing. 

The dislike Andy had felt towards him before, was nothing compared to what she was suddenly overwhelmed by now, since it intensified by a thousand, bordering on a level of hate she’d never experienced before, so much so, that she felt utterly paralyzed by it. 

The feeling of a cold, little hand grasping hers brought Andy slightly back to her senses.  

“Why?” Caroline asked sternly, crossing her arms over her chest and jutting out her chin. “What do you want from her?” 

Arthur’s eyes widened slightly, then let out a deep, yet gentle chuckle, greyish-green eyes glimmering with warm amusement as he ran a hand through his full head of salt and pepper hair. “You must be Caroline. It’s nice to meet you.” Leaning to the side, he flashed his charming smile towards Cassidy, who was standing slightly behind Andy with an indifferent look on her face, almost an exact replica of that of her mother’s. “And you must be Cassidy. It’s nice to meet you too.” 

Andy hated him impossibly more since he didn’t even deign to acknowledge her. He must think that she was just another insignificant nanny or something.  

“Actually,” Arthur said with a playful smirk. “It’s your mother that wants something from me.” 

“Arthur.” Miranda’s soft, welcoming voice floated down from behind them. 

Turning around, Andy had never, in a million years, thought she would ever be appalled by Miranda’s impeccable beauty. The revelation caused a piercing sensation to spread within her chest, viciously burning her heart as if a thousand needles were seizing it. 

Gracefully descending the stairs, with a friendly smile, Miranda wore an indigo wrap dress that ended around her knees, entirely flattering her figure. Five-inch, black Prada heels adorned her feet. Dangling from her ears and around her neck was a beautiful set of pearl jewelry. Her make-up and hair, as always, were flawlessly done again. Miranda looked absolutely, out-of-this-world, perfect. And Andy hated that too, because Miranda had dressed like that, for him

“You’re early,” Miranda greeted him with a kiss on his cheek.  

Andy noted, she didn’t kiss him with her lips, but they’d touched cheeks nonetheless. She felt like she was going to throw up. 

“Beautiful as always,” Arthur said, flashing his obnoxious, charming smile once more. “My jet touched down ahead of schedule, and traffic seemed to favor me this evening.” 

“I-” Miranda began but was cut off by Caroline. 

“Mom? What is this?” Caroline asked, more like demanded. 

Miranda raised her eyebrows as she looked down at her daughter. “Excuse me?” 

“You heard me,” Carline huffed. “Why are you going out with this ass-” 

“Caroline!” Miranda interjected sternly, anger flashing in her eyes. “Mind your tone.” She turned back to Arthur then. “Why don’t you go ahead and wait inside the car? I will be with you in a moment.” 

Arthur nodded. “Take your time, Miranda.” Then he bowed chivalrously to the twins and turned back towards his car. 

Once the front door closed, Miranda turned to face her eldest daughter with a cold, piercing glare. “What was-” 

“I thought you were going out to a work thing?” Caroline interrupted indignantly. 

“Don’t you take that tone with me, Caroline,” Miranda admonished strictly. “I never said it had anything to do with work.” 

Caroline scoffed. “Then what is this bull-” 

Cutting off Caroline this time, Miranda lowered her voice, almost to a near whisper, however, it was as deadly as a hissing snake. “Caroline Camellia Priestly, I highly recommend that the next words coming out of your mouth are chosen very carefully.” After a short pause, eyes shooting daggers, Miranda asked, but it was undoubtedly intended to come off as a warning. “Do I make myself clear?”  

“Yes, Mom,” Caroline mumbled, her anger only seemed slightly subdued by the deep frown she still sported on her forehead. “I just don’t get why you’re going out with this guy.” 

Miranda sighed heavily as she pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers. “Arthur is a friend of mine, Caroline. And I needed him-” 

Apparently, that was the worst answer Miranda could’ve given her daughter because Caroline interrupted her once more as she uncrossed her arms, balled her fists, and angrily stomped her foot on the floor as she raised her voice. “Andy’s your friend too! She’s the most real friend you’ve ever had! She’s important, you said so yourself, but now you’re just going to ruin it like that because of that dickface outside?!” 

Before Miranda could utter another word, Andy spoke up as she walked over to the fiery redhead, “Caroline,” Andy admonished gently, but her next words were slightly strained. “I told you before that I don’t mind-” 

Caroline was decidedly the queen of interrupting tonight as she nearly growled, “But I do! She always does this! She always forgets what’s really important! And I’m sick of it. Everything was going so well, and now she just needs to go ahead and ruin it all over again!” 

Crouching down in front of her, Andy placed her hands on Caroline’s shoulders as she tried to convince the girl, as much as herself. “Sweetie, listen to me. Nothing is being ruined, okay? If your mother says that this is-, important, then you have to listen to her because I’m sure she’ll have her reasons. She’s your mother, Caroline. Never doubt that she’ll only have your and your sister’s best interests at heart. You know this, don’t you?” 

Caroline stayed silent for a long moment, clenching and unclenching her first as she seemingly tried to burn holes into the floor with her narrowed gaze. Finally, she said, “I’m going to my room.” Then proceeded to shrug Andy’s hands off her shoulders and ran, bolted with heavy footsteps up the stairs, and closed the door to her bedroom with a resounding bang. 

The faces of the two women who had been following Caroline’s movements turned to look down at Cassidy, who was still standing in the middle of the foyer. 

“Oh, honey,” Andy whispered as she noticed the wet streaks on Cassidy’s cheeks. 

Cassidy merely shook her head, then turned around and slowly made her way up the stairs. When she was halfway up the first flight, she stopped abruptly, slightly turned her head to the side as she grumbled, “Enjoy your date, Mother.” And then she was gone as well. 

Andy, who was still crouching, looked up at an utterly perplexed Miranda. Slowly standing upright, Andy asked indifferently, “Need me to watch the girls ‘till Roy gets here?” 

Nodding distractedly, Miranda said quietly, sounding slightly dazed, “I don’t understand what just happened.”  

“Neither do I,” Andy whispered glumly, but she wasn’t referring to the children’s antics. “Enjoy your evening, Miranda,” Andy said, avoiding Miranda’s eyes, voice void of all emotion, she couldn’t fill it with any semblance of warmth even if she tried. 

Andy turned away and made her own way up the stairs, her heart slightly breaking at the sound of the front door closing behind her. 

Chapter Text

Not bothering to turn on the light, Andy entered her apartment, her coat slipping from her shoulders onto the floor, kicking off her ankle boots along the way as she drifted towards the couch. Lying down with a huff, Andy gazed up in the darkness at the ceiling, her mind utterly exhausted, yet, overflowing with tumultuous thoughts. 

The evening hadn’t unfolded at all as she’d expected. The day had been intended to be a momentous turning point in her life and..., well, it had still turned out quite pivotal, but out of all the scenarios that could’ve transpired, this had certainly not been one she’d imagined. Even if the outcome had not been the one she longed for, where the romantic chapter of her story would've ended in rejection, Andy had at least somewhat prepared herself for such an ending. It would’ve undeniably hurt like a bitch, yet, she would’ve been able to accept Miranda’s decision. 

But not like this!  

Not like feeling as if she was someone who was seemingly easily replaced. 

If that obnoxious usurper hadn’t suddenly weaseled his way into the picture, Andy would’ve had professed her feelings to Miranda by now. And instead of sulking alone on her old and tattered couch, she could’ve been kissing Miranda senseless right now, she could’ve been the happiest she’d ever been. That is, if Miranda would’ve admitted to liking Andy as more than just a friend as well.  

But now, seeing that Miranda was out on a date with another guy, a guy who Miranda thought was more important to spend her time with than with Andy, all the hope that Andy had been living on, had been viciously ripped out of her, leaving a dark, empty space where her heart was supposed to be, sucking, draining her soul into the freezing black hole.  

She should’ve known, she should’ve known better than to get her hopes up. Of course, Miranda is out with some guy. How could she have been so naïve, so foolishly blinded by something so delusive as hope?  

And now, look where living on such an ill-advised, untrustworthy feeling had gotten her!  

Whilst allowing herself to harbor such feelings for Miranda, allowing them to grow, even go as far as to recklessly act upon them, she’d made of herself the biggest, ignorant fool to have ever roamed this earth. 

It should’ve been obvious to her from the beginning. Miranda could’ve never fallen for Andy. The woman is straight, she’d been married to men, twice, for God’s sake! But it was the fault of the hope Andy had treasured so close to her heart, that had blinded her of all rational thought, of the harsh and bitter reality that Miranda could have never been hers to begin with. If only she’d realized sooner how unreasonable she’d been going through life, pining after an unattainable woman, after a hopeless relationship, then, perhaps Andy wouldn’t have felt so utterly defeated as she did right now. 

Looking back on the past weeks, Andy reminisced about every single intimate moment they’d shared, now seeing them in a new light, immersed in a much darker, yet, sensible shade.  She’d merely been the fool in the Queen’s court, living an illusion of sunshine and rainbows, fabricated by the misleading creation of her rose-colored brain. 

All the memories Andy had of the progress they’d been making, all of which had overjoyed her into thinking that anything was possible, that she could achieve the impossible, were now merely falsely perceived conceptions. The revelation about the obtuse way that she’d been living, was now making her feel sick to her stomach, because she ultimately did this to herself. She’d allowed herself to think that she had even the slightest bit of a chance with Miranda. But Miranda’s supposedly interest in her had all been a figment of Andy’s longing, and ever so hopeful imagination. 

Right?!  

Releasing a heavy sigh, Andy sat up on the couch and rubbed her face between her hands. 

Perhaps..., maybe she was just overthinking the entire situation? Maybe it was merely her insecurities that were deluding her now, instead of hope? After all, it wouldn’t have been the first time that she’d gotten carried away, nearly losing herself by self-doubt when it came to Miranda. 

So, maybe she shouldn’t give up on hope so easily? That had been an important lesson, a way of life, she’d learned from Miranda, after all. And seeing how successful Miranda had made out her life to be, wouldn’t it be a misguided decision to give up on hope? 

Because Andy couldn’t entirely disregard the fact that Miranda seemed to be invested in building their connection as well. Miranda cared for Andy, she was sure about this. Their interactions this past week had all but vanquished any lingering doubts Andy might’ve had about the notion.  

Miranda had let her in, seemingly pulled her in, in fact.  

Miranda had texted her back, during work. She had wanted to stay in contact with Andy over phone calls while she’d been recuperating at home. That had been a significant peculiarity all in itself, hadn’t it? That Miranda seemingly couldn’t let a single day go by without talking to Andy. And what if Andy hadn’t called her? Would she have called Andy up herself?  Would Miranda have missed her? Who misses a simple friend, after not hearing them for merely a couple of days? 

And then there was the fact that Miranda had so freely expressed her gratitude to the younger woman, something Andy had never heard Miranda do for someone else. She had even apologized, and explained herself to Andy on several occasions, that was something else Andy was certain of that the older woman didn’t do for just anybody either. 

According to the twins, Miranda had never allowed anyone to sleep over at the townhouse, and yet, Miranda had all but demanded Andy not to leave for those nights. She had even expressed her concern for Andy’s well-being, had taken care of her too. 

If that didn’t mean anything significant in the nature of their relation, then how could one explain Miranda’s motive of making herself vulnerable to Andy? Andy knew, beyond shadow of a doubt, that Miranda trusted her, she’d said so herself, and Miranda didn’t lie, ever. And due to that, Miranda had freely revealed personal, sensitive information, even concerns, about herself. 

Miranda had even made Andy promise not to leave her children’s, and consequently, Miranda’s life as well. How could Andy not think that Miranda didn’t want to lose, whatever it was between them? 

Another profound revelation was that Miranda used her lips, when she’d kissed Andy. Not just the customary air kiss, nor the cheek-to-cheek kiss the older woman used with everyone else. No, Andy seemed to be an exception on that front. 

Also, Miranda had graced her with numerous honest, or playful smiles, as well as unbridled laughter. She’d let the gaiety she felt, shine through her eyes whilst talking, jesting with the younger woman. 

Then there had been all those moments, so many of them that Andy had lost count, where Miranda had seized Andy’s eyes with an expressive, meaningful, unguarded gaze, seemingly trying to convey without words what she was thinking, feeling.  
It’s a rather well-known proverb that the eyes are the windows to one’s soul. Well, to Andy, it had felt as if Miranda had been trying to lure in Andy’s soul with her own, wanting to capture it, entangle it, possess it, as they lost themselves in one another’s drowning depths. 

There’d been all those real milestones between them, and so many others as well. So, how could all of that not mean something more to Miranda. How could Andy not think that Miranda hadn’t been “surreptitiously” trying to pull her in? 

Groaning, Andy stood up from the couch and made her way over to the kitchen. Her swirling thoughts, her inconclusive feelings, were becoming too much for her to handle. Miranda was too consuming, and she needed a break. She needed to drown the events of the evening, and the woman who’d caused them, out of her mind, just for tonight. 

Uncorking a bottle of wine, Andy didn’t even bother to grab a glass and made her way back to the couch. She turned on the TV in an attempt to distract herself.  

However, the next morning, she wouldn’t have been able to tell you a single thing she’d seen on the screen that night.  

*** 

Waking up with a groan, Andy immediately regretted her indulgence of the night before. She’d fallen asleep on the couch, which had left her with a sore and stiff neck. Glancing at the clock on the wall, she realized she’d slept through most of the morning. Her muscles ached as she stood up, deciding a long shower might help her to alleviate some of the tension she felt in her neck and shoulders. 

Whilst standing under the hot spray of water, Andy pondered about the conversation she would have with Miranda today. She’d been nervous about it before, before the usurper had suddenly made his presence known in Miranda’s life. But now, Andy felt utterly anxious. Yesterday, Andy had carried at least an adequate amount of hope that Miranda might feel something, anything more than just friendly feelings for her. Today, it was merely a fragment of what it had been the day before, but a fragment she was holding onto for dear life. In order to keep on going, to not merely give up on her chance with Miranda, she needed to live on something. And even though it was probably the most foolish thing she’d ever done, living on that shred of hope, right now, meant everything to her. 

Therefore, she wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way, nothing was going to stop her. She was going to have that conversation with Miranda no matter what. Because Andy needed to know. She needed to know where she stood in their relation. She needed to resolve all her doubts, all the what-ifs, because she just knew that she couldn’t continue to keep on going like this, in this clouded uncertainty. And if the outcome wasn’t going to be the one, she was still hoping for, then she’d at least know what to do with herself, what was going to happen after that. After several days of wallowing in her disappointment, in her heartbreak, she’d have no choice but to start and pick up the pieces, so she could continue on with her life, and put this whole chapter with Miranda behind her and move on, eventually.  

But first, she needed answers. 

*** 

Even though Andy’s phone hadn’t left her hand for a single instant, after every five minutes, she still checked to see if Miranda had reached out to her yet. Andy was currently making her way to her favorite coffee shop for brunch, clutching the lapels of her coat with her free hand tightly around her neck since the weather was taking a turn for the worse. She should’ve tied her hair up since the howling gusts of wind were sweeping her already unruly locks into all different directions.  

After picking up a copy of The Post to read while nurturing a much-needed cup of coffee at a nearby newsstand, she entered the café and ordered a cup and an éclair to still her rumbling stomach. Taking a seat at an empty booth, she checked her phone for the umpteenth time, wondering if she should be the one to reach out first and ask Miranda when it would be a good time come over. Deciding that it would be best to wait for Miranda to announce when she was ready to receive the younger woman at the townhouse, Andy placed her phone down next to the newspaper and settled in for a leisurely read of today’s news. 

As she turned to Page Six, Andy wished she’d never gotten out of bed that morning, or rather, wished she’d never met Miranda Priestly altogether, since she was currently faced with a picture of a laughing silver-haired woman, whose hand was lying on top of the hand of, apparently, the new Mr. Priestly. 


The Fashion Queen Secures Her King Arthur  

It’s a rather widely known fact that New York’s Dragon Lady aka Miranda Priestly (50), abhors time being wasted, if her constantly scampering minions are anything to go by.  

The reigning Queen of the fashion world is apparently just as impatient, or even more so, when it comes down to her love life. And with two failed marriages behind her already, well, let’s face it folks, she isn’t getting any younger either. Clearly, Priestly also realizes this only too well. 

Spotted last night sitting at a rather secluded table at the Boom Boom Room cocktail bar of The Standard, High Line Hotel, (That says it all, am I right?), were none other than the Editor-in-Chief of Runway Fashion Magazine, intimately sharing drinks with Arthur Alastair (56), CEO of Storgan Manley Investment Management Inc. and several other prosperous enterprises. 

A source tells us that the pair had been hushing closely together in seemingly secretive whispers all night, and it seems like Mr. Prie-, I mean, Mr. Alastair has quite the sense of humor, because who would’ve guessed that the Snow Queen was able to laugh like she does in the picture taken by our source. A laughing Miranda Priestly? I know right?! 

Even though Queen Priestly’s second divorce is only now entering its final stages, it seems like she’s all but eager to sink her claws into a seemingly equally eager, and very eligible King Arthur... 


With a forceful smack, Andy slammed the paper on the table.  

She scoffed spitefully, then grumbled under her breath, “A meeting of utmost significance, Miranda?” Shaking her head, she growled, “Yeah, I can see that. Rub it in my face, why don’t you?” 

Andy’s blurring vision fell upon the buzzing phone on the table. Her already hurting heart ached impossibly more as she read the text she had just received. 

M: Andréa, I am afraid I don’t have the time this weekend. I have some further business matters to attend to. I will see you on Monday.  

“Business matters, my ass,” Andy grumbled through clenched teeth, angrily stuffing the phone into her coat pocket, wishing she could throw it into a certain fountain instead.  

Storming out of the coffee shop, she trudged off into a random direction, not caring that the rain had started to fall down on her like a never-ending hail of bullets, fired in a war. 

She should’ve known, she should’ve seen this coming. Instead, she’d allowed herself to hope for something utterly hopeless. How could she have been such an ignorant, such a gullible fool? 

The silently wept tears streamed down in rivulets over her flushed cheeks, the churning upheaval in her distressed guts, the bitter taste in her trembling mouth, the heart-wrenching ache in her burning chest... She had brought all this carelessly upon herself. 

She should’ve anticipated that the road to Miranda she’d been walking on, could’ve only ended in a dead end, or rather, at the edge of a cliff. And due to Andy being blinded by her hope, she hadn’t been able to distinguish the edge.  

Miranda Priestly had always been Andy Sachs’s inevitable downfall. 

Chapter Text

Suppressing a yawn, Andy exited the elevator onto the Runway floor, drowning out the hectic bustling of the clackers around her as she trudged towards the anteroom, not caring that she probably looked like something the cat had dragged in. Upon crossing the threshold, she noticed an unfamiliar face sitting behind the second assistant’s desk. Andy had completely forgotten that she was supposed to train a new assistant today since Miranda had fired Claire last Friday. Clenching her jaw tight, she suppressed a frustrated groan because this was, to the nth degree, the last thing she needed to deal with on a day where she felt like utter crap, since she’d barely gotten any shut-eye over the weekend. 

But then Andy thought that the timing couldn’t have been better, because this would provide her with enough of a distraction, or rather, an excuse to avoid Miranda. She’d be too busy with preparing the new girl to work under The Fashion Queen’s reign of terror, but mostly, she could use her as a buffer to distance herself from said Queen as well. 

“You must be the new assistant?” Andy asked as she forced a smile on her face. 

“I am,” the raven-haired girl grinned back. “I’m Raquel Ortega. And you’re Andrea, right?” 

Andy nodded, thinking that Raquel seemed friendly enough, not like the typical pretentious clacker that dominated the fashion industry. “Please, call me-” 

“Andy,” Raquel interrupted as she chuckled. “I thought you were going to say that, I’ve heard quite a bit about you already in the half hour that I’ve been here.” 

Andy blinked in disbelief, then asked, “You have?” 

“Oh, yeah,” Raquel nodded, seemingly impressed. “I’m well aware of Miranda’s tyrannical reputation, but everyone seems to be convinced that you’ve been able to tame the Dragon Lady, so to speak. This bald guy advised me that you’re the one to turn to when things get rough, because you’ll always know what to do, and are always willing to help.” 

In this moment Andy realized that if someone had said that to her a week ago, she’d have been happy hearing that everyone thought there wasn’t a single thing Andy couldn’t do to please Miranda. However, right now, the fact that she was seemingly held in such close regard to the editor, only caused her to feel something very akin to grief, because everyone’s notion about them couldn’t have been further from the truth. 

Feeling saddened by the statement, Andy said quietly, “I see.” Then, as she acknowledged what Raquel had said about Miranda, she couldn’t help but feel defensive all of a sudden. “Just make sure Miranda doesn’t hear you call her that, or any other type of moniker for that matter, or you’ll be out of here in no time.” 

Raquel merely chuckled in amusement. “Guess you’re more of her knight than her tamer, aren’t you? Don’t worry, I certainly don’t have a death wish. In fact, I’m rather excited to be working here. I know this job will open many doors for me, and I intend to make good use of it.” She finished with a rather challenging smirk. 

“Well, good,” Andy said, suddenly feeling not quite sure about Raquel’s friendly nature. “Ready for your first task then?” 

“Definitely,” Raquel answered determinately. 

“Then go to the Starbucks across the street and get-” 

“One no-foam skimmed latte with an extra shot, center-of-the-sun hot, I’m on it,” Raquel quipped enthusiastically as she practically jumped off her seat and scurried, as if she was born with five-inch heels on her feet, out of the anteroom. 

“Yeah,” Andy said faintly, “That.” 

After Andy had prepared Miranda’s desk by strategically spreading out magazines and the newspaper, as well as placing a chilled glass of San Pellegrino on a coaster, she retrieved her pen and notepad from her desk, then made her way back to the elevator for Miranda’s always punctual arrival. She was surprised to see that Raquel was back already as their paths crossed in the hallway. 

Handing the coffee cup over into Andy’s outstretched hand, Raquel asked boastfully, “How’s my time?” 

“Acceptable, I suppose,” Andy said, sporting a fake smile once more. 

Then, with dreadful trepidation, she proceeded on her way to meet Miranda at the elevator, her heartrate picking up in its velocity with every unnerving step she made. 

The reality of facing Miranda was making Andy’s stomach stir in all kinds of uncomfortable knots and constricting twists. It was awfully afflictive how a single disheartening revelation messed with Andy’s head so drastically, that she’d gone from wanting to be in Miranda’s presence 24/7, to wanting to run away in the opposite direction over the course of one weekend.  

The prospect of seeing Miranda again used to be such a zealous outlook, because the older woman had been like the ideality of what Andy wanted her future to look like. Andy knew that she would never again meet someone she found equally extraordinary as Miranda, someone she would be so consumed by that she’d lost sight of everything else around her because her sole focus had become her desire to be Miranda’s significant other. Therefore, it was entirely a hard, damn near impossible pill to swallow when she’d been hit with the brutal truth that they were in fact, never meant to be. Much like waiting with wishful excitement, after all the passionate nurturing and consideration you’d invested, for the bud of your favorite flower to bloom. But sadly, all the culmination brought was unfulfilling disappointment as its blossoming never came, never even began. Instead, it withered away, life ending before it even truly had a chance to flourish, its existence having always been a hopeless bane, since not even a single petal had been destined to soak up the sun’s rays. 

The mere thought of Miranda alone, caused a vicious stab to pierce through her already broken heart. That fractured heart suddenly skipped a painful beat as the elevator dinged, doors sliding open, and Andy had to forcefully bite back her tears at the sight of the editor, who walked past her without sparing so much as a single glance, who seemed to be entirely wrapped up in her boss-mode already, making Andy feel as if she was merely another insignificant assistant, which, in this moment, she was. 

Andy was still very much struggling to stomach the naked truth that Miranda would forever be an unattainable, yearning dream to her. So, she let her eyes drop southward, due to her fear that she’d instantly break down entirely if she’d met Miranda’s gaze. A gaze she’d been all but eager to lose herself in only a couple of days before. But now, Andy was clinging desperately onto the last frail strands of her self-control, knowing that if she’d met Miranda’s eyes now, she’ll uncontrollably fall endlessly into an arctic abyss of despair. Because Andy acknowledged that those enthralling eyes would never regard her in such a way than they would a certain king usurper, and if not him, eventually it would be another man that would be graced, bestowed with the gift of adoration in Miranda’s gaze. 

Andy simply couldn’t bear such a grievous confrontation just yet. Her wounds were still too deep, too fresh, and she was nowhere near the starting line of her road to recovery yet. 
Even though Miranda was never hers to begin with, she’d always known that losing Miranda would be a painful affair. However, over the weekend, she’d come to experience the reality that there was no such thing as anticipating, preparing for such a hurtful condition.  

But what Andy could have anticipated, should have truly realized beforehand, is that it was a given testament that loving Miranda would’ve only concluded in an inconsolable ending Andy could’ve prevented for herself. If only she hadn’t allowed herself to hope like an ignorant protagonist in a romance novel, if only she had distanced herself from Miranda sooner. She should’ve predicted that the scenario of loving Miranda had always been scripted with an epilogue, where Andy’s heartbreak had been set in stone. 

Handing the coffee over to Miranda, their fingers brushed, and Andy couldn’t help but cringe slightly at the contact, a cold shudder creeping up her arm, because that had been the hand which Miranda had used to grasp the usurper’s hand. A sign of Miranda’s affection. A sentiment Andy would never be the receiving end of.  

Andy understood now, that Miranda would never acknowledge her as someone more than just her assistant, or as someone more than merely just a simple friend. Unfortunately, that was something Andy couldn’t accept because she didn’t want to be her friend, or rather, she couldn’t be, not while holding so many feelings for Miranda at the same time.  

The true demoralizing realization of it all was that she’d allowed herself to be played like a fool by none other than herself. All because she’d been destitute of her vision by her near obsession for the older woman. And it is exactly due to that epiphany that left Andy feeling embittered to no end. 

As Andy wrote down the seemingly endless list of tasks Miranda was dictating in her ever so indifferent, yet imperious manner, she couldn’t help but tune herself into Miranda’s demeanor. The editor delivered everything rather curtly, making it seem like she couldn’t wait to get this part over and done with. Even with keeping her head mostly down, Andy could still pick up on the barely noticeable hints that gave away the tension in Miranda’s posture.  

These things suggested to Andy that Miranda was apparently trying to exude her usual impersonal, yet callously strict, razor-sharp focus that made up her business persona, but was actually covering up that she was thinking of something else as well. Most likely distracted by thoughts of the usurper, no doubt. 

The somewhat distant and detached vibe consequently conveyed to Andy, making her realize painfully once more, that when push comes to shove, that she was ultimately nothing more than just another assistant to the editor. Because even after everything that had transpired between them, in the end, Miranda still deemed her not significant enough to treat her as something more than that when they were in public. 

With a sharpshooter’s aim, Miranda flung her coat and bag onto the second assistant’s desk, naturally, not even deigning to acknowledge Raquel, who didn’t seem to mind it in the least, if the ecstatic look on her face was anything to go by. 

Reluctantly, Andy followed Miranda into the inner office as she continued to scribble on her notepad. When it finally seemed as if Miranda had uttered the final task for the time being, out of habit, Andy waited for the trademark dismissal, but discerned with anguishing anxiety that it wasn’t about to be issued upon her anytime soon.  

Andy knew, she could literally feel Miranda’s gaze on her. The magnetic force Miranda possessed over her, seemingly urged Andy to look up at her. But Andy couldn’t find it within herself to truly face the cause for her heartsickness yet. She was still too emotional, she couldn’t think straight because she was still too angry at herself, and entirely outraged over the fact that she was seemingly so easily replaced by someone as obnoxious such as the usurper. The pain Andy was feeling was too overpowering, however, she desperately didn’t want to give in to the sadness of it all. Therefore, it left her with no other choice but to cling on to the only thing that wouldn’t cause her to break down, her anger. 

“Andréa, are you alright?” Miranda asked softly, barely audible, as if she didn’t want someone to hear her direct such an inconceivable question towards her assistant. 

     Of course not, how could it be? Andy thought spitefully, clenching her jaw tight. 

“I’m fine,” Andy answered curtly instead. 

After a short, high-strung pause, Miranda said, “That wasn’t the truth, Andréa.” 

     So what if it wasn’t? What difference does it make? It’s not like it really matters anymore, does it?  

“Just-, a lot on my mind,” Andy grumbled under her breath. “I’ve missed a week’s worth of work, after all.” 

She knew Miranda was scrutinizing her, taking note of every single weary and wary detail in Andy’s appearance. 

“Why aren’t you looking at me?” Miranda asked, a sedate gravity lacing her voice. 

     Because I want to be able to walk out of here with at least a sliver of my dignity still intact. Because you can never know, that you’ve broken my heart.  

I should get to work,” Andy said impassively. “I’ve got a lot of things to do. You’d said so yourself, we’re behind on schedule.”   

“You’re avoiding me,” Miranda stated slowly, quietly, gravely. 

     Like you avoided me this weekend?  

Frowning deeply, inwardly, Andy was frantically trying to reel in her anguish, causing the irritation she felt at herself to seep out of her tone, I’m just trying to do my job, Miranda. That’s what’s required of me, isn’t it?” 

“Andréa,” Miranda said, sounding slightly leery. “This is not the place nor the time for me to inquire about what you’re feeling-” 

     Well, that’s quite the inconspicuous way of saying that you’d rather be focusing on your new beau instead, isn’t it? Why am I not at all surprised?  

“I said I’m fine, Miranda,” Andy interrupted sharply. “Look,” she took a step back as she shook her head, feeling an urgent need to put some distance between them, then backed up another step. “We’re wasting time here. I-” 

“Stop moving away from me, Andréa. We’re not done here,” Miranda demanded as she suddenly rose from her seat. 

     Oh, but we are, aren’t we? You and your so-called king have made that crystal clear for me.  

Unwillingly, Andy felt the telltale prickling sensation of her eyes starting to water. So, abruptly, she turned around as she waved her notepad slightly in the air, mumbling, “I’ve got other engagements I need to attend.” Then she proceeded to walk out of the inner office, not having it in her to care if she’d just invoked Miranda’s anger, because all she could think of was that she desperately needed to get out of there. 

As Andy reached Raquel’s desk, she heard her ask, so overly enthusiastic that Andy couldn’t help but feel appalled by the chipper attitude, “So, what do you need me to do now?”  

Glaring down at Raquel, she said sharply, voice increasingly hoarse, “Listen, I’m only going to explain this once, because frankly, I’ve got much more pressing matters to deal with right now.” 

Andy didn’t fail to notice the slight recoil in Raquel’s posture, nor the hardening in her deep brown eyes, but she couldn’t find it within herself to care. “Under no circumstances are you to leave the phones unmanned. Do not let a call go to voicemail. Take notes on everything you don’t know what to do with, I’ll deal with them later. My number is on the contact list, however, only call me if it’s about something urgent. Update Miranda’s schedule and reply to emails for the time being. I’ll explain everything else to you when I get back.” Walking past Raquel, Andy finished with a strangled, “That’s all.” 

*** 

Instead of relegating the various tasks that took her out of the office to Raquel, Andy had taken them upon herself, because she simply didn’t have the heart to face Miranda again after she’d walked out on the editor that morning. When Andy returned at the end of the day, she breathed a sigh of relief upon finding that Miranda wasn’t in her office. She realized all too well that she couldn’t keep avoiding Miranda forever, that their paths would cross undoubtedly sooner rather than later, but until that time, Andy welcomed all the reprieve she could get, needing to distance herself from the older woman until she was more of sound mind to deal with her situation. 

She turned to Raquel who was typing something on the computer, seemingly deep in concentration. 

“Hey, Raquel?” Andy inquired gently. 

Raquel looked up at her, an indifferent, yet stern look on her face. “Yes?” 

Andy sighed. “Look, I’m sorry if I came off rather rude earlier today. I didn’t mean to take it out on you. I’ve just been..., stressed, I guess.” 

With a slightly tight-lipped smile, Raquel said, “It’s okay, thanks for saying that.” 

“Still,” Andy said guiltily. “I shouldn’t have left you to your own devices like that. Were you able to handle the day okay?” 

Raquel nodded. “Oh, yeah. Everything went without a hitch. I did as you said, phone calls, emails, and all that. But, I’m not entirely sure if Miranda knows that I even exist. Well, except for when I relayed a certain message not too long ago, but even then, she didn’t acknowledge me, just nodded once, that’s it.” 

“Don’t take it personally,” Andy said. “Miranda doesn’t acknowledge a lot of people. My advice, is just to get used to it.” Then, as an afterthought, Andy asked, “What sort of message?” 

“You mean the one I had to relay to her?” Raquel asked, then continued at Andy’s nod. “Oh, just some big shot, Arthur something, uhm-, Alastair. Yes, that’s it, Arthur Alastair. He’d requested Miranda to meet him for dinner. I think that’s where she went off to now. You actually just missed her. She seemed in a bit of a rush.” 

At the mentioning of that name, Andy felt as if a cannonball had hit her right in the gut, prompting a sudden case of heartburn, as well as knocking the wind right out of her. 

“Andy?” Raquel queried gently. “You okay? You don’t look so good all of a sudden.” 

“I’m fine,” Andy snapped. Then immediately regretted her little outburst at the shocked, slightly hurt look in Raquel’s eyes. “Shit,” Andy mumbled as she rubbed her forehead. “I’m sorry, Raquel. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that.” 

Looking apprehensive, Raquel said, “You seem to not intend to do a lot of things. At this rate, you’d be apologizing to me every five minutes or so.” 

Andy chuckled solemnly. “Yeah, I know. I really am sorry. I’m just...” releasing an exhausted breath, Andy continued. “Well, I’m just going through something right now. And I’ve got a bit of a temper. So, please, don’t take it personally. It’s honestly not my intention to make you feel bad.” 

Sweeping her bangs out of her face, Raquel said, “It’s okay, I get it. Trouble in paradise. Don’t worry about it. At least I know now.” 

Andy nodded. “Anyway,” she began, wanting to change the topic. “How about I give you a proper rundown of what you need to know while working here?” 

Raquel grinned, eyes suddenly glimmering with interest. “Sounds like a plan.” 

*** 

As Andy got home late that evening, she slammed her front door closed, needing to vent some of her aching anger, which had been instigated upon finding that Miranda still hadn’t come home from her dinner by the time she’d delivered the Book to the townhouse.  
It wasn’t like she’d planned, nor wanted to see Miranda again, on the contrary, she absolutely dreaded the thought of Miranda calling her over to talk about Andy’s attitude today. Because Andy simply had no idea what she could say without giving away that it’s actually due to Miranda herself that her mind and soul are struggling in every waking moment, and frankly, she didn’t even want to say anything even if she could. Miranda was never destined to be her safe haven. 

However, what she hadn’t anticipated was how her anger had gotten the better of her, consumed her upon realizing that Miranda was most likely still out with that guy. She couldn’t get her mind to stop thinking about Miranda, doing God knows what, with the usurper that had invaded, upended, and overthrown her life, leaving her utterly embittered because she’d been defeated without so much as a real fight. 

Somewhere, deeply buried within the recesses of her rational mind, she knew that she couldn’t blame Miranda for the heartache she’s going through. Because ultimately, Miranda had done nothing wrong, she’d never shown any real sign that she was interested in something more than just friendship. Andy had merely been misinterpreting every single inkling she’d had, or misread all the implications Miranda had given off. But right now, her temperamental emotions had seized her, latched on with vicious claws, and were controlling the forefront of her being, blinding her of all rational thought. Andy was left irritated beyond all reason because she simply couldn’t stop thinking about how much of a fool she’d been, as well as not being able to get Miranda out of her head. 

Miranda, whose world hadn’t changed in the least, because Andy was decidedly not meaningful enough to cause even the slightest bit of impact on her life. She simply continued on, most likely walking down a path that would turn her life around for the better, because she’d found someone who she wanted to spend her time with, whose company she preferred over Andy’s. 
Miranda, who was going out and about, living her life, unwaveringly confident, high and mighty, and forevermore unfazed, not deigning to spare even a glance at the innocent or ignorant living souls she crushed under the powerful gait of her heels. 
Miranda, who had probably all but forgotten about the past, rather intimate week that had transpired between them, because it had ultimately meant nothing of true significance to her.  
Miranda, who was utterly oblivious to the agonizing heartbreak she’d caused Andy, unbeknownst of all the despairing rivers the younger woman had cried since she’d discovered the article in The Post. 

Andy poured herself a nearly brimming glass full of wine, almost draining half of it in one go, wanting to forget the devastation loving Miranda had caused her, wanting to forget that she’d gotten the other side of the coin, the downside. Because unlike Miranda’s, her world had changed, much like that metaphoric coin, it had been turned upside down. She’d been foolishly walking around with her head in the clouds, obscuring her rational mind. Bewitched by a hopeless love spell, her soul consumed by the most heady, addictive drug she’d ever experienced in her life.  

However, now that Andy’s mind, body, and soul were going through a painstakingly withdrawal, forcefully trying to sober herself from the intoxication Miranda had inadvertently caused on her being, the disillusioning veils had been lifted, and she could now recognize that it hadn’t been a spell that had possessed her, but something much worse. She’d been bedeviled by a much darker, sinister enchantment.  

Andy had been cursed, and she couldn’t help it, nor fight it, but it angered her to no end. Because she knew that she would, in the foreseeable future, carry the side-effects within her. It had tainted her heart, darkened her mind, and infected soul. The love she felt for Miranda had desolated her, because nothing would ever come close to the sensations she’d experienced. The considerable intensity she’d felt behind the feeling, was something only a few fortunate souls would ever get to be blessed with in their lifetime. People longed for, searched their entire lives to find such an epic, otherworldly connection with love. 

But what the world failed to see, is that when you allow yourself to bask in the pleasure of such a blessing, is that you’re essentially signing your soul over to the Devil. Because that kind of love isn’t a treasured gift that is freely bestowed upon a so-called fortunate soul. 

No, it’s a compromise, a concealed trap, a sinfully corrupt contract. And as you sign your name away, making a deal with the Devil himself, people realize belatedly that it leaves you now forever indebted to him, because the seemingly so ethereal thing he’d promised you, always comes with a heavy price to pay.  

Sadly, it’s simply human nature that makes you heedlessly grasp and embrace such a revered rarity upon finding it. However, allowing yourself to be consumed by such a love, truly means that you’re ensnared in the essence of the deadly sin of lust. 

Tricked by the Devil, who has come to collect, Andy is now paying off that debt, leaving her in the most vulnerable position she’d ever experienced. After all, for all it brightens, love casts a long, forlorn shadow. Because she is now doomed as one of those unfortunate souls to wander the earth, cast in hellish darkness.  

Vanquished by the usurper, or any other man, their triumph consequently sentencing Andy’s penance, because she’d allowed herself to be swept away in lustful love. 

Manipulated by none other than herself, blindsided by her hope, strayed off course and cast away.  Her heart cursed into an anchor, dragging her down, sinking into darkness, and now she lay drowning, crushed under the heavy weight of the ocean. 

Misled by Miranda, because Andy had blindly believed that she was her life jacket, her saving grace. 

So now, with nothing to hold onto, Andy had been robbed of her faith, her hope, and her strength to swim back upwards.  

Spitefully, she narrowed her eyes as she glanced down at her phone on the kitchen counter, which was currently buzzing, lit up, and displaying the cause of her woeful affliction.  

Andy scoffed at it as it continued to buzz. Feeling that she’d suffered more than enough already, she couldn’t even begin to think of a single reason why she should give in to another one of Miranda’s whims. The last thing she needed right now, was to listen to Miranda’s voice, who’d been spending the entirety of the evening doing things, which Andy tried with dreadful desperation not to think of, with that obnoxious new man in her life, no doubt.  

She couldn’t do it, in this moment, and every other moment to come, she couldn’t accept that all Miranda would only ever truly need from her, was to be her assistant, or to be a mere friend. But sadly, that is exactly what Andy was, and realizing that, only fueled her self-anger impossibly more, tormenting her to no end. 

She drowned the remaining half of her glass, nearly breaking it as she slammed it back down on the counter. Opting for the bottle instead, she strode out of the kitchen. 

It was the first time since working for Miranda, that she didn’t take her call. 

Nate would’ve probably been happy about such a twist of fate. 

Chapter Text

Wednesday  

It wouldn’t take much more for Andy to start screaming out her frustration, she was nearly on the verge already, and she didn’t care if people thought that she’d completely lost it. She couldn’t blame them if they did, because it certainly felt like she had lost all grip on her bearings. Ever since she’d returned back to work on Monday, everything she touched was turning into a complete disaster. 

She hadn’t been able to focus, was constantly distracted, trying to avoid thinking about Miranda, as well as the woman herself as much as possible. Until now she’d successfully been able to stay out of the older woman’s orbit. Miranda had meetings back-to-back on Tuesday and Andy had delegated the task of taking notes to Raquel. However, all her attempts at trying to give her mind a moment of peace had all been in vain, causing Andy to make faults left and right, leaving all sorts of failures in her wake.  

This morning, Andy had experienced a rather disheartening eye-opener. When she’d opened up her closet to dress up for the day, her mind had faltered once more as she stood gazing upon all the clothes and outfits she’d borrowed from the Closet. In that moment, Andy had realized that her head, and her heart, were no longer in the game, which left her feeling as if a pitch-black, swallowing void had manifested in her chest.  

She’d lost her drive, her devotion to please Miranda.  

Before she’d stumbled upon the job, working for the number one fashion magazine in the world, Andy hadn’t had the least bit of interest in fashion. However, over time, she’d found herself enjoying dressing up in hundreds of dollars' worth of clothes and accessories. After the “cerulean rant”, and after seeing how much thought and work went into creating and upholding the ever so innovational industry, and what it meant for society and the individual everyday woman, man, or child, she now respected it as well. She’d found her own style, loved the power and confidence that came with it. 

However, she had also realized that one of the main reasons she enjoyed meticulously putting a fashionable outfit together, was because she was also constantly striving to satisfy Miranda. Andy couldn’t deny that she had loved to have that arctic gaze peruse her from head to toe. Every day, she stood waiting in front of Miranda’s desk, with wishful excitement, to receive Miranda’s undivided attention. She’d reveled in receiving an approving nod, to see that pleased glimmer in the editor’s eyes, that twitch of her lips as she suppressed a secretive smile. Apart from seeing Miranda bright and early, that shared moment between them, had come to be Andy’s favorite occurrence in the mornings. 

But now, a revelation had washed over her in front of her closet that morning, she’d found the task of making herself presentable for Miranda, utterly draining. 

Andy couldn’t help but feel that whatever she did for Miranda now was merely a wasted effort, because ultimately, she could no longer see why it mattered. Andy might’ve come to comprehend that what she felt for Miranda would always be one-sided, but she couldn’t deny that she still loved her, would most likely always love her. And it’s exactly because of the fact that she was still in love with her, that Andy couldn’t find the heart to remain close to Miranda, to continue to invest all of her energy into pleasing the older woman. It was simply too painful to have the person you desire with all your heart so close to you, yet forever out of reach. 

Coming to terms with the reality that Andy had no choice but to surrender, losing the prize that she could’ve never won in the first place, bereaved her of the impetus that motivated her to keep on going, to achieve the impossible. Having been stripped of the hope that she’d been living on, caused her to lose sight of her purpose, of the future that she’d been envisioning for herself. She could no longer see the path in front of her, much like navigating a maze, blindfolded. Every step she made felt wayward, straying her off course, roaming around in a dense cloud of mist, concealing all the prospects of what was to come next. 

Whilst on her way back to the advertising department to retrieve a folder of documents that she should’ve handed over to editorial, she was suddenly grabbed by her arm and pulled into the Closet as she passed it. 

“Hey! Let go-” Andy began to protest as she tried to pull herself free. 

“Calm down, Six. It’s just me,” Nigel said as he released her arm.  

“Nigel?” Andy nearly growled. “What the hell are you doing?” 

Raising an eyebrow, Nigel crossed his arms as he said, “I could ask you the same thing.”  

Frowning, Andy narrowed her eyes and mocked, “I was trying to do my job, until you suddenly decided to manhandle me.” 

“With the emphasis on ‘trying’, no doubt,” Nigel declared as he shook his head. “Six, you haven’t been doing your job at all since you’ve been back. I’ve never seen you, to put it mildly, struggle, the way you’ve been mucking about these past days. You weren’t even this bad when you first started out here, and that’s saying something.” Starting to feel empathetic due to the conscience-stricken look on Andy’s face, he laid his hand on her shoulder, giving it a light squeeze as he asked gently, “Seriously, what’s going on with you, Six?” 

Andy’s guilty features suddenly hardened in less than a second as she took a step back, Nigel’s hand falling from her shoulder. “What? Is there a law written somewhere, saying that I should be smiling every minute of every day? Aren’t I allowed to have a bad day every once in a while?” 

Nigel looked slightly taken aback at Andy’s hostile attitude. “Of course, you’re entitled to have a bad day. But why are you having them in the first place? I’m only asking because I’m starting to worry about you. You know that, right?” 

The remorseful look returned as Andy raised her hand to her forehead, shaking her head at herself. “I’m sorry, Nige. I-, I don’t know.” After breathing out a heavy sigh, she admitted, raspy voice barely audible, “I haven’t really been myself lately.” 

“It’s okay, Six,” Nigel said softly, concern showing in his eyes as he subtly examined Andy’s weary features. “I’ve noticed something’s been troubling you, and I’ve been growing more worried by the day. You know I’m here for you if you need someone to talk to, right?” 

For a moment, Andy didn’t care if the pain she felt on the inside was revealed on her face. “I know,” she breathed, “but there’s nothing to talk about.” 

Frowning, Nigel asked, “What makes you say that?”  

After a short, apprehensive pause, Andy admitted with a slightly shaky voice, “Because it’s no use. Because it doesn’t matter anyway.” 

“Andy,” Nigel said, stepping closer and holding onto her shoulder once more. “If you’re feeling bad about something, it matters. And you shouldn’t be suffering in silence. If you don’t want to tell me about it, then at least talk to one of your friends. It won’t do you any good if you keep things bottled up.” 

Andy broke away from his gaze, stomach in turmoil. She really didn’t want to talk about it, but at the same time, something within her seemed to be urging her on nevertheless, like a brimming bucket balancing precariously on a rope, seemingly waiting for the slightest of tremors to tip it over. Questioningly, she looked around, not feeling comfortable in the least to even think about voicing her troubles out loud. 

Nigel must’ve read the wariness on her face because the hand that still rested on her shoulder gently prompted her towards the door. “C’mon, let’s go to my office.” 

As Nigel closed the door to his office behind them, he gestured for Andy to sit down in one of the chairs in front of his desk. Taking a seat next to her, instead of his own desk chair, he said kindly, “There, away from prying ears. It’s just you and your fairy godmother now. I’m listening to whatever it is you need to get off your chest.” 

Andy nibbled nervously on her bottom lip, her chest was suddenly burning with harrowing anxiety as she thought about lowering the fragile walls, she’d build within herself over the past couple of days in an attempt to ward off and withstand her heartache as much as possible. She knew that once she lowered them, all the heartache that she’d been feeling would wash over her anew. And yet, holding it all in, felt unnervingly similar to a suffocating sensation. The urge was there, right in her throat, to let herself breathe, but she didn’t know what to say, how to even begin, what she could reveal, and what she shouldn’t.  

After a long, toilsome moment, it was Nigel who carefully broke the heavy silence that had fallen upon them. “It’s about Miranda, isn’t it?” 

Andy didn’t even blink, flinch, tense, or made any other indication that Nigel’s presumption took her by surprise, because frankly, she saw no point in denying it, or make an effort at hiding it. She didn’t have the energy to even think about trying that. In any case, Andy didn’t feel the need to be concerned about what Nigel thought of it. After all, he knew about her feelings for Miranda, so, the fact that he figured out on his own what’s been troubling her, strangely felt as a relief to Andy. However, she was still trying to find her voice. 

“Did you two have an altercation of sorts?” Nigel asked carefully.  

Andy was about to shake her head in the negative, but then she heard herself say, “More like, I’ve been having an altercation with myself.” 

This time, Nigel waited, realizing that Andy had just taken the first step in talking about her feelings, giving her the time to work out how she wanted, needed to handle this conversation, for her own sake. 

“I-,” Andy began softly. “I’ve been reaching for the stars, Nigel.” After inhaling a deep breath, she continued, “I’ve been so careless, so carried away, and now...” In a strangled whisper, she revealed, “I’m lost.” 

“I realize I’m about to sound like an overpaid shrink,” Nigel said. “But why do you feel that way?” 

Andy let out a heavy sigh but it didn’t release her even the slightest bit of any of the burdens she carried on her shoulders, which were slumping in exhausted defeat. With a shaky voice, thick with emotion, she said, “I never had a chance to begin with. I-, I should’ve realized that sooner. I’ve been living on hope for so long, blinding me of the truth, and now, losing her-” her voice cracked. “I-, I’ve lost her. I’ve lost what was never mine to begin with. I realize that now and it’s just been-, it’s been so fucking hard to come to terms with that. I-, it’s-” Andy took a shuddering breath as she ran her hands through her hair. “I’m not able to handle it very well. At least, not yet, anyway.” 

“Why do you think you’ve lost her?” Nigel asked gently. “I thought things were going rather well between you two. I mean, I’ve seen you ride the elevator together last week, and I know you’ve been talking, seeing each other.” 

Andy looked up at that with a questioning look on her face. 

“She told me how you got your concussion,” Nigel revealed. “That you’d been over to the townhouse, playing with the twins.” Then, deciding that it might be a good thing for Andy to know, hopefully to make her feel better, he said, “Last week, during your absence, she’d talked a little about you here and there. Just a little thought she’d voiced out loud when she dismissed another incompetent fool, or a little tidbit every now and then as she was reading, or looking at something. It caught me by surprise at first, but then I realized, I think she hasn’t been really aware that she was doing it. She always sounded, well, distant, I suppose. Like she was lost in the thought of you, and not in the moment. And I’m sure that you know how strange it was for me to witness that. It’s not like Miranda to get distracted.” 

Andy didn’t know what to do with that information, but she did discern that it wasn’t doing her any good, on the contrary, she wished she could just unhear the things Nigel had said, because all it did was making her feel worse, it was messing with her head. “So? She what, thought of her somewhat competent assistant? Because everyone else was screwing things up all around her? I think you’re reading into it wrongly, Nige. Miranda was most likely just complaining about her staff because she’s gotten so used to me fixing everything.” 

Nigel shook his head, disbelief and worry showing in his eyes. “You should know that that’s not true, Six. I understand it’s difficult to believe that Miranda cares for you, but it’s obvious to me that she does. I know you must’ve come to realize that too, over these past weeks. She’d never relied on someone before as much as she does on you. Not even on her ex-husbands. She never gets distracted over a friend. She doesn’t allow just anybody to be that close to her children as she’d allowed you to be. I mean, last week, when you weren’t here, I heard her say-” 

“No,” Andy interrupted sternly, knuckles turning white as she gripped the armrests of her chair, feeling anguished by Nigel’s assumptions, because somewhere, deep within herself, she was aware that Nigel knew, and understood Miranda better than most people. They had been knowing each other for nearly twenty years, after all. He’d been there the day Miranda had taken the helm of a sinking ship, and steered it with unrivalled grace and brilliancy onto the highway of legendary success for nearly two decades. He’d been by her side through two failed marriages, the birth of the twins, and most likely so many other momentous happenings with unwavering loyalty, which hadn’t even faltered when she’d ripped Nigel’s dream job right from his hands in order to protect her position as editor-in-chief of Runway.  

But Andy couldn’t listen to him saying that Miranda might care for her like he thought she does. Andy knew Miranda cared, but not in the way she wanted, that was exactly the problem. And listening to Nigel trying to make her see that she might be wrong in her conclusions, was another despairing predicament she couldn’t allow herself to believe, to fall into, to rely on. She couldn’t risk it. She couldn’t afford to get her hopes up again. It was too hard for her to handle already. She didn’t need another grievous and desolating bucket of ice-cold water to drown in. 

“I don’t want to hear it,” Andy said hoarsely. “Even if there’d been an unlikely sliver of a second where she’d thought of me as something..., I don’t know, more than just a friend, she’s made her choice. She’s found someone who she wants to spend her time with. A guy, Nigel. Because I foolishly failed to acknowledge that she’s straight. A guy who she isn’t bothered to be seen with out in public. Someone who she thinks is more important than me. That says enough, about how she regards me. I’ve just been a friend to her, but I can’t-, I can’t be her friend. It hurts too much. I can’t watch her be happy with someone else. It would break me, more than I already am.” 

“What are you talking about, Andy?” Nigel asked, sounding slightly confused. “Who’s this guy you think Miranda’s going out with?” 

Andy pulled out her phone, opened a link of a news notification she’d seen this morning, showcasing another article about Miranda and the usurper going out to lunch yesterday. She hastily handed the phone over to Nigel before she could see the picture of the two of them together appearing on the screen. 

“Oh, Andy,” Nigel sighed as he scanned over the article. “You should know better than to believe the trash Page Six publishes.” Handing the phone back, he said resolutely, “This doesn’t mean anything.” 

“Except that it does,” Andy grumbled angrily, feeling irritated by Nigel’s offhanded comment. “Of course, I know better than to believe anything on that stupid gossip blog. But what they’re saying this time is true, Nigel. Miranda’s been going out with him. Apparently, more times than I thought,” she waved her phone in the air, the anger she’d been suppressing since seeing the article starting to seep out of all the pores on her body. “He even came to the townhouse to pick her up for a date, while I was there. She and I had plans! I-, I was about to confess my feelings to her, but Miranda chose him,” she spat out the pronoun venomously, “over me. She brushed me off this weekend, twice. She’s touching him, for God’s sake! You know she doesn’t just touch anybody. I’d be a bigger fool than I already am if I were to believe that nothing’s going on between them.” 

Nigel had been sitting back in his chair, listening and waiting patiently for Andy to vent out her anger, then reasoned calmly, “Well, have you talked to her about it? Has Miranda actually told you that she’s seeing him? Or are you just jumping to conclusions here?” 

“Of course, I haven’t,” Andy said, an incredulous look on her face. “That’d be a ridiculous thing for me to do. It’s not my place to ask her such things. It’s none of my business who she goes out with.”  

Holding back a sigh, Nigel said, “I think you should. I think you should stop avoiding her like you’ve been doing this week. Whether you like it or not, you are her friend, Andy. You can talk to her about it, find out the truth so you can put your mind at ease, and not just suffer in silence over mere speculations. You will have to face her at some point. It’s bound to happen. It won’t do to continue stretching out this avoidance. Don’t think she hasn’t noticed you hiding away from her. She’s been rather menacing because of it.” 

“Oh, please,” Andy huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. “She’s that way all the time, especially with print deadline coming up. I’m certain her mood has got nothing to do with me. Besides, all I’m hearing around these halls is how she’s somewhat content that at least one of her assistants isn’t royally screwing everything up, and I’m not talking about myself.” 

This time, Nigel did let out a sigh, “Yes, that Raquel girl has proven herself to be competent, but she isn’t you, Six,” he said, stressing out the last part of that statement. “On the contrary, I find her to be quite the pompous harpy. And considering I’m daily surrounding by people with such traits, that’s saying something.” Looking her dead in the eye, he continued, “Andy, no one can do what you do, be who you are to Miranda, and I can tell she’s come to acknowledge that. Miranda might be using Raquel’s proficiency, but you’re not exactly giving her a choice, because you’re never around when she needs you, and everyone can see that your actions are leaving her in a rather diabolical mood. But I can tell it’s not you who she’s frustrated with. Miranda knows something’s up with you, she isn’t blind to the fact that you’re struggling over something this week. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that she still relies on you, Six. She trusts you. She likes you. She cares about you. And, I’m positive that she’s just as worried as I am, probably more, about what’s going on with you. You’ll have to talk to her eventually. So, why not just get it over and done with?” 

“Because I can’t,” Andy nearly yelled, Nigel’s explanation painfully pulling on her heartstrings. “I can’t face her. Not like this, like the way I am now. What am I supposed to say? I can’t tell her the truth. She can’t know that I’m failing at everything because I’m in love with her, because I’m suffering for being in love with her. It’s hard enough already that I can never be with her. I won’t be able to handle her actually saying that a relationship between us is impossible because she’s choosing that guy, or anyone else for that matter, over me. I can’t handle her saying that she’ll never be able to love me back. That’s-, it’s-” her voice wavered, then growing increasingly hoarse as she continued in a near whisper. “I can’t. I can’t have her say that. I can’t hear it. There’ll be nothing left of me if she does. I-, I always realized that her rejecting me was entirely possible. I thought I was prepared for such an outcome. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. I-, I’ve never felt so...” She trailed off, wiping a stray tear away. 

Nigel reached out and gentle squeezed her knee. “But what if you’re wrong, Andy? What if there’s really nothing going on with her and that guy? What if it  is  possible that she could return your feelings?  What if you thinking that a relationship with her is hopeless, is actually holding you back from making your hopes a reality? Can’t you see that you might be robbing yourself of an opportunity to be with her, for Miranda to tell you that she actually loves you back? Because that scenario seems more likely to me than her dating that guy.”  

Andy shook her head as she grumbled irritably, “Wake up, Nigel. As I mentioned before, she’s straight. You’ve known her for almost twenty years. Have you ever seen her dating another woman before?” When Nigel didn’t respond, Andy breathed in defeat, “That’s what I thought.” 

“But you’re not like any other woman she’d encountered before, Six.” Nigel tried to explain. “You hadn’t realized that you could hold romantic feelings towards women before you met Miranda either. What if it’s the same for her, because she’d met you? She’d never before-” 

“Save it, Nigel,” Andy interrupted sternly. “It’s never going to happen. She’ll never see me that way. I can’t even begin to fathom what she does see in me for her to accept me as a friend in the first place. She’s this-, she’s just so much bigger than life itself. I’m nothing compared to her. There’s no way in hell that I would actually deserve her. I have no money. I have nothing to my name. She has double the life experience than me. There’s absolutely nothing that I can offer her. Not like this Arthur guy can. He has, and is, everything that I am not. I might hate his guts with a burning passion, but even I can’t deny that he’s a better match for her than I could ever be.” 

Nigel looked at her with a hint of sadness in his eyes, feeling sorrowful that the young woman actually seemed to believe all the demoralizing things she’d said about herself. “Andy, you’re so much more than that. You’re worth so much more than you're making yourself out to be. I’m positive that Miranda would tell you the exact same thing. Don’t throw in the towel just yet. Not while it’s obvious that there’s something more between the two of you, something good, for the both of you. If you would just talk to her. Give her a chance to show you that she does care for you that way, to tell you that she does see your worth, that she doesn’t care about the differences. There’s no denying the fact that she sees something in you, or else she wouldn’t have allowed you to come back after you left her in Paris, allowed you to be so close to her, or her children. I’ve known her for so long and she’s never been with me, or anyone else, the way she seems to be with you. That tells me so much, Andy. You’re special to her. Give her a chance to prove that to you. Don’t end this now because you’re feeling unsure or due to the rumor mill. I’m sure Miranda has her reasons for seeing that guy, reasons that aren’t what you think they are. You should base your next steps on the truth. Who knows, things might turn out the way you exactly want them to.” 

“No, Nigel,” Andy said, her voice broken. “I can’t. I just-. Please stop trying to convince me. I can’t get my hopes up again. I can’t continue to live like this. It’s over. I’m trying my hardest to come to terms with that, because I have no choice. You should too.”  

Standing up, Andy turned away from him and headed for the door. She ignored the dispiriting feeling, not allowing herself to acknowledge that she felt like she was leaving an important part of herself behind by ending this conversation, by ending it all. 

Nigel watched his dear friend go, feeling the need to do something, anything, to repair even a sliver of her broken heart. But he knew that he held no such power, no one did. Not even Miranda. It was up to Andy herself, to fix and rebuild the parts of her that had been broken. 

*** 

Andy stood in the copy room, waiting for one of the machines to finish printing the dozen bundles of documents the accounting staff needed for their meeting with the editor. With a blank expression, face and body eerily void of all emotion, she stared at the wall in front of her, feeling as if she were completely tuned out of the world as it continued to spin and evolve, but was leaving her out if its gravitational realm.  

Suddenly, Andy blinked, feeling the hairs on the back of her neck and arms rise as if an arctic breeze brushed over her. An unsettling shiver ran through her. Her heart turned into a harshly beating muscular organ of blood rushing dread, knowing exactly what, or rather who, could have such an effect on her being. A paralysis took a hold of her body, making it go numb. However, all of her senses suddenly grew exponentially in their awareness and perceptiveness as her ears picked up the faint sound of the door closing behind her.  

She felt very much like a bunny, four paws caught in a bear trap, bereaved of the choice to run, from the dragon that had set its eyes on its prey. 

“Andréa.” 

Andy’s eyes fell closed, breath catching in her throat. That voice, the softest of mouth-watering honey, coupled with that spine-tingling pronunciation of her name, so unique to her ears, used to be such a breath of life to her soul. Miranda wielded her soft, mellifluous voice so gracefully, deliberately, ferociously, and to Andy, it had caressed her so pleasurably. However, now, she felt entirely guilty for feeling so. Wanting to bathe in the sirenic sound, knowing she would drown. Wanting to live on the scintillating allure, knowing it was her weakness, her undoing. 

“Andréa,” spoken more slowly, softly, yet strongly. A sinful sonance to Andy. 

Andy sucked in much-needed air, exhaling a shuddering breath that quietly whispered, “Miranda.” 

Even on heels, Miranda proved she shared the talent of stalking predators, moving without making a single sound, making Andy tense from top to bottom as a cold hand suddenly materialized around her forearm, freezing the blood in her veins. 

For a long moment, time seemed to have been brought to a standstill, yet, an infinite number of things were occurring within Andy, all of which she couldn’t even begin to explain, except that it caused her such pain. 

A gentle tug on her arm, felt like a despairing pull on a string to, and roped around her heart. Still, Andy couldn't move. 

“Andréa.” The young woman almost whimpered, almost. “Why won’t you look at me?” Miranda asked, her voice, as always, deliberately controlled, yet tinged with an indecipherable undertone. 

Andy’s survival instincts kicked in, knowing she could only handle the latter of the fight-or-flight response. Pulling her arm free from the gentle hold, she scrambled the papers into a folder and made to bypass Miranda, muttering hastily, “I’ll go bring these to the conference room.” 

However, for the third time that day, her arm had been taken hold of. This time, Miranda’s hand wasn’t as gentle as before. “And why are you constantly running away from me?” 

“I’m not,” Andy said, looking longingly at the door. “I’ve just got a lot of things to do.” She knew she was grasping at meager excuses. She just didn’t know what else to do, except that she needed to protect what was left of her heart. 

Miranda’s voice turned cold, freezing, frightening. “It seems like you’ve forgotten that I’m still your boss, Andréa. Anything I say, goes. Therefore, if I tell you now to forget about your job for a moment, you’ll do as I say.” 

Growing ire invaded Andy’s mind, tightening the muscles around her eyes as she, for the first time that week, met Miranda’s gaze. Then, she heard herself snap, “Or what, Miranda? You’ll fire me if I don’t listen to you?” 

For a sliver of a second, surprise flickered in Miranda’s eyes, before they hardened into a narrowed gaze, paired with pursed lips. Somehow, Andy didn’t feel wavered by the iconic look that had the knees of men buckling with fear. Maybe it was because of her anger at the betrayal of her hope, at the weakness of her heart, at the disappointment in her gut, at her soul lost at sea. Anger that had been wreaking havoc within her since that man had turned up at Miranda’s doorstep. Anger that had only been building up, hadn’t yet been unleashed, merely drowned out to a simmer by cheap wine and self-pity. Andy felt something solid, yet desperate within her, perhaps in a somewhat unconscious fit of self-preservation, fortifying her to hold her own under Miranda’s piercing gaze, locked in an unyielding, conquering battle, that was in all actuality, a battle of defending, protecting one’s self. 

Still, yielding had to be done, lowering defenses, consequently making oneself vulnerable was inevitable, but as a bold of the blue, it wasn’t Andy who caved first. 

Features softened slightly, the previously cold and steely voice grew moderate, yet wary. “Of course, I won’t fire you, Andréa.” The apprehensiveness that tinged Miranda’s voice seemingly extended to her eyes now as well. “I thought we were past that.” Voice growing strangled, Miranda began to add, but wavered, “I thought that...” 

Andy’s ire had taken a backseat the moment Miranda’s voice had broken the silence between them. “You thought what?” Andy asked quietly, feeling equally wary and strangled as Miranda looked. 

After a short moment, Miranda breathed out a sigh, then seemed to regain her composure once more. And yet, Andy somehow recognized that she wasn’t faced with Miranda, the imposing editor-in-chief of Runway, but with Miranda, the formidable, yet vulnerable woman, who admitted covertly indifferent, “I thought you trusted me enough not to treat you like just another one of my assistants.” 

A week ago, that explanation would’ve delighted Andy, knowing that out of the infinite number of assistants Miranda had been through, Andy was somehow different from all of them, meant more to Miranda than just another employee. Instead, it saddened Andy, ridiculing the emptiness inside her. She might be more than an assistant to Miranda, but it would never be enough. Miranda might want her as a friend, but she would never be able to give Andy what she wanted in return. 

“But that’s what I am, am I not? Your assistant. In the world you and I are living-, working in, I’m on the bottom of the food chain. Compared to you, I’m nothing. So, why shouldn’t you fire me, if I don’t obey your orders? You have that power over me, Miranda. To turn me into dust. Because at the end of the day, I’m ultimately someone insignificant in your life. I’m replaceable. Here at work, by someone competent, and outside of work, by someone that’s your equal.” 

Miranda looked positively puzzled as she tried to read Andy, trying to uncover and comprehend what was hidden behind the younger woman’s guarded look. “Where is this coming from, Andréa? What makes you-, why are you-, what’s been going on with you this week? What happened?” 

Ironically, Andy couldn’t stand Miranda’s concern. It didn’t feel right. It felt misplaced. She wanted to receive it, accept it, hope on it, but she’d just be deceiving herself once again, thinking that she could live with this, that it’d be enough. But that was just the moment speaking. Andy knew that in just a couple of passing thoughts and feelings, the conclusion would always be the same. For her own sake, she couldn’t be what Miranda wanted of her. 

“Nothing happened,” Andy said, sounding hollow. “I’m just doing my job. I’ve had a lot to do, and there’s still more to be done. That’s all I’ve been focusing on since I’ve been back. I thought you’d understand.” 

Andy mused, that the irritated look Miranda was directing at her was more like it, was how it should be, how it always should’ve been. Because if it had always been that way, if Andy hadn’t been on the receiving end of Miranda’s gentle, tender, amused, and affectionate looks, they wouldn’t have been in this distressing predicament, and her heart wouldn’t have been broken in the first place. 

“Oh, for the love of God, Andréa.” Miranda nearly growled, the irritation in her eyes washed away by something more tempestuous. The hand on Andy’s arm tightened its grip, no longer feeling as cold as just a moment before. The touch, burning. “Why do you insist on lying to me?” The unbridled accusatory tone felt to Andy as if she’d been slapped right across her face, making her flinch. “How is it that you might actually believe that you can fool me with puerile excuses of you being too busy with work?” Andy noted, that there was not even a single hint of questioning intonation in that. “You’ve been overwhelmed with a workload trice as much before, that had never proven to be too difficult for you to handle. So, don’t you dare take me for a fool a second longer, Andréa. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stop lying to me from here on out.” 

It was as if the burning contact of their skin touching, the fervid look in Miranda’s eyes, and the scathing tone in her voice, fueled Andy with equal inflamed intensity that seemed to be radiating off the older woman, their auras clashing. “I’m not lying!” Andy nearly yelled. “I’m just doing my job, Miranda.  So, what, you’re going to punish me for doing that? That doesn’t make any sense. You say that you don’t think of me as just another one of your assistants, that you won’t treat me as such, and yet, you won’t hesitate to put me back in my place. You won’t hesitate to remind me that I am just another one of your minions. Proving to me that, when push comes to shove, I am just another dispensable person, that you can lord your power over.” 

“Quit that incessant babbling, Andréa,” Miranda said, annoyance overtaking her voice. “We’ve been over this not even five minutes ago. You should know by now that I don’t say things I do not mean. How your mind conjures up such nonsensical thoughts, is entirely beyond me.”  

Then, Miranda blinked, something Andy couldn’t decipher flashed in arctic eyes. Suddenly, the anger and irritation seemed to have left Miranda’s gaze, but was now staring deeply, piercingly, gravely into confused hazel ones, unnerving Andy down to her core. 

“Something’s been going on with you,” Miranda began, chillingly soft, a stark contrast to her fierce tone just a short moment ago. “Something you clearly don’t want to tell me, if your continuous dishonesty is anything to go by.” 

Andy opened her mouth to say something, but found that her voice, and mind, were failing her. 

“That suggests it has something to do with me,” Miranda continued. “Naturally, since it’s just been me that you’ve been avoiding since Monday.” 

Andy felt a cold sweat starting to transpire on her forehead, and dripping down her spine, thinking she needed to get out of there, as fast as possible. Because Andy could literally see the wheels in Miranda’s head turning. The older woman was considering and deducing, with her razor-sharp mind. Her undivided and frightening attention focused solely on Andy and her behaviors. Puzzling the pieces together and figuring out the reasons of Andy’s changed demeanor toward her. And Andy feared with an all-encompassing dread she’d never experienced before, that Miranda was about to uncover the truth, but she felt utterly powerless to try and put a stop to it. 

“I see,” Miranda whispered after an oppressive moment, that seemed to have lasted an eternity, her mind seemingly made up. The hand that had been clutching Andy’s arm the entire time fell back to hang at her side. “So, we’ve never been past it, after all.” 

Andy frowned, not comprehending what Miranda meant. 

“Seems like even you,” Miranda paused, the look in her eyes was ripping Andy’s soul to shreds, “are not even capable of trusting me.” Unexpectedly, she chuckled, the sound so grim, so tragic, so harrowing it was causing Andy’s blood to curdle. “I should’ve known. Once a coward, always a coward.” 

Andy, for the life of her, couldn’t even begin to fathom what Miranda was thinking, but she realized without a shadow of a doubt, that fate was steering them down a path that was completely shrouded in an ominous darkness. “Miranda-” 

“The least you could’ve done, Andréa, was tell me straight to my face that you no longer wished to be associated with me beyond our working relation. Seems like you have learned nothing from the whole Paris debacle, after all. You’re still the same foolish girl that turned her back on me, on the Snow Queen, the Dragon Lady, the Devil in Heels, aren’t you? So, what, you’ve finally come to realize, and accept, that I am indeed the monster the world is making me out to be? Well, for such a seemingly smart girl, your ignorance is rather astounding.” 

“What?! Miranda!” Andy said in shock, mind whirling with the ill-fated turn of events. “No! This has nothing to do with Paris! This has nothing to do with-” 

“Bore someone else with your excuses, Andréa,” Miranda interrupted sharply.  

In a flash, Miranda turned around, the quick movement sending a waft of wind and perfume straight into Andy’s horror-stricken face.  

“Miranda!” Andy cried in heart-wrenching anguish, feeling as if her entire world was crumbling down all around her as she watched Miranda walk away from her. 

With her hand on the doorhandle, Miranda’s head snapped back around, the silver forelock falling over her left eye. Never before had Andy seen such fatality in that narrowed arctic-turned-ocean gaze before. It felt, quite literally, as if Miranda was sending piercing daggers of ice straight through her heart. 

“I suppose you should be proud of yourself, Andréa,” Miranda hissed, so quietly, Andy had to strain to hear the words she wished she never would’ve heard in the first place. “You’ve proven to me that I can be wrong, that I’ve made a grievous error, a bad lapse of judgment.” Turning back around, Miranda whispered raspingly, “I thought you were different.” 

“Miranda-” Andy reached out, voice thick with tears. 

“That’s all.” 

Chapter Text

*graciously waves arm as if drawing a rainbow in the air* Good day to you all, *drawls* my darlings. 

I hope you’re having a wonderful day? 

Before I start rambling, let me just start by saying that I apologize, since this is not the update you’ve been waiting for. *rubs back of neck* 

Let me also start by saying that I love every single one of your comments.  
Gosh, you gals come up with the funniest things! Seriously, they light up my day. 
And all of your kind words, they warm up my heart. 
They’ve inspired me throughout all of this, too. 
I have loved to ponder many of the things that you’ve said. 
And for all the words that I could possibly use,  
(and you should know by now, that I know how to use an excessive number of words, lol), 
There’s just no way to express my gratitude.  
Except to just say, that I’m incredibly thankful for all the things that you’ve written.  
It’s been an amazing journey so far! And I’m loving every single minute of it.  
And you gals have played a big part through every step of the way so far, too. 

Therefore, 

Thank you. 

I apologize, because the next chapter is going to take me a bit longer to update. I’ve reached a point in the story that’s... well, basically... It’s a big deal.  

There’s a lot going into it, in the next couple of chapters. And I need to be deadly critical when I’m writing this part of the story. I want to write it as delicately as I am able to. Seemingly all around the clock, my mind has been on this. Because I just want to get this right

So, I’m taking on the next two chapters as a whole. It’s going to take me some time, because I don’t want to rush this.  

You might consider I’m tapping obsessively into my inner Miranda, *snorts* because I’m so fixated on making this perfect. And it’s never going to be perfect because I’m just that critical about it, it’s not even funny. But I can most certainly laugh about it. I’m not even kidding. It’s okay! I’m obsessed! Lol!  

Anyway, 
I’m thinking very much about you gals. I know it sucks to wait, and I’m sorry. But I also want to be able to give you something that I am content with, and that’s an understatement. 

So, I ask you to please take this all into consideration.  

Thank you. 

Also, for those of you who were wondering... 

I’m doing great! My day has been great thus far. And it’s’bout to get ah whole lotta betta coz imma ‘bout to start poundin’ on them keyz, and not even yo momma is gonna tell me, no, Cuz.  

*snorts* Sorry, that was horrible, lol! 

So yeah, 

Basically, 

I just wanted to fill you gals in on it. Thought you should know, since I really know how much waiting sucks. And all this babbling mess is me, trying to be considerate of that. 

Hope you’re having a great day! 

Stay Safe!

Love yah!

And seen you soon, my darlings! 

*blows air-kiss*